Word comes this week from Mosaic Templars Cultural Center that Quantia “Key” Fletcher is to take the helm of the museum, succeeding former museum director Christina Shutt, who departed earlier this year to lead the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Fletcher’s all but new to the museum, a press release from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism said. She joined the museum prior to its opening in 2008 and served as the museum’s deputy director for the past eight years. Fletcher is cited as instrumental in developing MTCC as Arkansas’s only state-funded Black history museum.
“Key Fletcher has been instrumental in cultivating quality MTCC exhibitions and programs,” director of the Division of Arkansas Heritage Jimmy Bryant said in the release, “including creating ‘COVID in Black,’ a program that collects artifacts related to the experiences of African Americans during the pandemic.” More from the release:
Prior to joining the MTCC staff, Fletcher worked with the National Park Service. She played a critical role in helping prepare MTCC for its grand opening and in gaining national accreditation in 2020. She led education and outreach efforts before taking on the deputy director position.
Her appointment as director was effective May 20, 2021, at the salary of $62,531, and comes on the heels the opening of “The Negro Motorist Green Book” exhibition, which is the first traveling exhibition the museum has opened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The story of the Mosaic Templars of America and other African Americans is a critical cornerstone to the broader history of Arkansas and the U.S.,” Fletcher said. “I am elated to lead this great museum and phenomenal team in continuing to share the history of Black Arkansans with our community and our country.”
On the new exhibit, up through August 1 on two floors of the Cultural Center, is a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian on Victor H. Green’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” Maybe you know it from “Lovecraft Country,” or from Peter Farrelly’s 2018 Oscar winner “Green Book.” Those who were alive in Jim Crow-era America knew Harlem postman Victor H. Green’s book because it was an essential, indispensable guide to traveling while Black — and skirting violence or disaster along the way.
Here, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center serves as the second stop for the Smithsonian’s exhibit of the same name, with enormous panels that paint in vivid detail what it was like for the Black middle class to travel cross-country in 1936, when the book was published, what Black-owned business culture looked like as it built itself up despite its segregated context, and how the Green Book functioned, as the Smithsonian puts it, as “a shield, empowering Black people to explore their world with more dignity than fear, more elegance than embarrassment.” Wall-sized quotes from Aretha Franklin and James Baldwin are situated next to automotive and cosmetic items of the day, as well as ominous photos of signs indicating the boundaries of “sundown towns,” many of which were right here in Arkansas. Split across two floors and curated here in Little Rock by Courtney Bradford in partnership with Smithsonian’s Elizabeth T. Wilson, the exhibit “was redesigned specifically for our building,” Bradford told us during our preview visit, “to fit in as much content as possible. Normally this exhibit is on one level.”
The exhibit is hailed with a series of adjacent events; mark your calendars for a July 17 visit to Mosaic Templars from the exhibit’s curator, author and documentarian Candacy Taylor, who developed the collection along with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).