Kinsey African American Art & History Collection opens April 22 at FSU Panama City

Jan Waddy

A celebration years in the making, Treasures from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection opens April 22 at Florida State University Panama City.

“The story is not a Black story; it’s an American story,” said Bernard Kinsey, whose collection with his wife, Shirley, spans more than 40 years. “We are really proud of our work and believe it’s the kind of work America needs right now.”

Organized by The Bernard & Shirley Kinsey Foundation for the Arts & Education and KBK Enterprises Inc., the world-renowned exhibit originally was scheduled to come to FSU PC in 2019. Plans were underway before Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018, and then came the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

The long-anticipated Kinsey African American Art and History Collection opens to the public at 10 a.m. April 22 with a grand opening ribbon cutting followed by exhibit tours with the Kinseys. Opening day also includes a noon luncheon highlighting a presentation by Bernard Kinsey on the “Myth of Absence.” 

“We are honored to have an exhibit of this caliber coming to FSU Panama City,” said Dean Randy Hanna. “This collection not only documents American history but also the tremendous contribution Black artists have made to American culture.”

After opening weekend, exhibit hours will be noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, through mid-July. The exhibit also is available for showings by appointment for individuals and groups, including schools and other organizations.

The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection is sponsored by Panama City Toyota, the St. Joe Community Foundation, Walborsky Bradley & Fleming, Florida Power & Light, Visit Panama City Beach and the Charles A. Whitehead Foundation, in addition to anonymous donors and individual sponsors such as Dr. Carrie Baker.

About the Kinsey Collection:

Florida natives Bernard and Shirley Kinsey met at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee in 1963, and after marrying in 1967, they set a goal of traveling to 100 different countries during their lifetime. The Kinsey Collection began with the couple’s desire to instill an appreciation for the arts from cultures throughout the world in their son, Khalil, and support up-and-coming artists. But it was their son’s family history assignment for school, when they realized they could only trace their family tree back four generations, that led to their “rediscovering” of the African American story that had gone untold.

“Really, we feel this is a human story on the human experience and connection, illuminating the story not known,” said Khalil Kinsey, chief operating officer and curator of the collection.

The exhibit shares stories of African Americans’ resilience, creativity and achievement spanning more than 400 years through paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, rare books and documents — from a bronze bust of Frederick Douglass to letters by Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rare, primary source historical objects and artifacts date from 1595 to the present day, and art created by African American artists dates to 1865. 

Bernard Kinsey refers to the “myth of absence,” explaining contributions by African Americans, whether in science, industry, politics or art, were omitted from history books and the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection aims to provide the narrative. The Florida Department of Education has adopted the Kinsey Collection as the basis of instruction of 3.6 million students on African American History. The Kinseys also published an accompanying book, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey,” featuring items on display in the exhibit and other items of interest in their collection.

During the past 15 years, the exhibit has been seen by more than 15 million people in nearly 40 cities around the world at places such as the Smithsonian, Disney’s EPCOT, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, and in Hong Kong. Most recently, the Kinsey Collection exhibited at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles during the 2022 Super Bowl.

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Thursday, April 21

  • 6:30-8 p.m.: VIP Reception in the Holley Academic Center featuring a presentation by Shirley and Bernard Kinsey, exhibit tours and a book signing 

Friday, April 22

  • 10 a.m.: Grand opening ribbon cutting; exhibit tours in the Allan Bense Atrium open to the public 
  • Noon to 2 p.m.: Luncheon with the Kinseys in the St. Joe Community Foundation Lecture Hall; “Myth of Absence” presentation by Bernard Kinsey; book signing
    4 p.m.: Pep Bands comprised of students from the FAMU Marching 100 and FSU Marching Chiefs perform at the Bayside Amphitheater

Saturday, April 23

  • 10 a.m.: Exhibit opens for tours, presentations