Mission: To promote and include the contributions of contemporary African-American artists in the canon of American art history through exhibitions, programs, and publications, as well acquisitions by major museums.
About the Organization: Founded in 2010, the traces its origins to the mid-1980s, when art historian and collector William S. Arnett began collecting the works of largely unknown African-American artists living and working in the Southeast. The foundation — which takes its name from Langston Hughes' 1921 poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," the last line of which is "My soul has grown deep like the rivers" — today holds a collection of more than twelve hundred works and documents compiled mostly by Arnett and his sons over three decades. In 1996, an exhibition titled Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art of the South was presented at the at , and the accompanying two-volume book remains the most in-depth examination of the artists and art from the region.
Current Programs: The foundation serves as a resource for students, scholars, and the public and works to highlight the contributions of contemporary African-American artists through , , and programming, as well as acquisitions from its collection by major museums. In 2012, the foundation donated its archive of more than twenty thousand documentary photographs, videos, audio recordings, oral histories, and other materials to the at the .
The foundation's collection currently includes works by more than a hundred and sixty artists — including Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Mary T. Smith, Joe Minter, Nellie Mae Rowe, Purvis Young, Emmer Sewell, Ronald Lockett, Joe Light, and the Gee's Bend quiltmakers — two-thirds of whom are women. In 2014, the foundation began a multiyear program to transfer the majority of the works in its care to the permanent collections of leading U.S. and international museums. To date, more than two hundred works by seventy-five artists have been acquired by leading museums in the U.S., including the , the , the , the , and the .
Website: Visitors to the Souls Grown Deep Foundation site can read about the of Southern African-American outdoor art dating back to the days of slavery; learn about the different types of created in Gee's Bend; and browse profiles of whose work is included in the collection as well as examples of their work. They also can browse listings of the foundation's and (which can be purchased through the site) and learn how they can the organization.
Funding: Souls Grown Deep Foundation is funded by foundations, corporations, and individuals.