Amy Sherald’s portrait of Breonna Taylor © Amy Sherald. Collection of Speed Museum and National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo: Joseph Hyde

Amy Sherald Donation Supports New Scholarship and Fellowship Honoring Breonna Taylor

11 April 2022

Gift from the sale of portrait to benefit undergraduate students at University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law

In 2020, Amy Sherald painted the portrait of Breonna Taylor for the historic cover of Vanity Fair magazine. Renowned for her documentation of the contemporary Black experience, Sherald always intended for the work to live beyond the date of the September 2020 issue, and to contribute to causes of social justice. The acquisition of the painting by the Ford Foundation and the Hearthland Foundation in 2021 enabled her to realize both.

Amy Sherald has made a donation of $1 million to the University of Louisville to fund the Brandeis Law School’s Breonna Taylor Legacy Fellowship and the Breonna Taylor Legacy Scholarship for undergraduates. The gift is the result of distributions from the trust the artist established through the sale of the painting. 

The announcement was highlighted by an impactful day of events at the university including the law school’s first Breonna Taylor Lecture on Structural Inequality; the presentation of the school’s first-ever Darryl T. Owens Community Service Award to Amy Sherald; and the announcement of plans to bring the portrait of Breonna Taylor to Louisville’s Speed Museum in 2023. 

‘Nothing can take away the injustice of Breonna Taylor’s death,’ said the university’s Interim Vice President for Community Engagement, Douglas Craddock Jr. in announcing the gift. ‘But what we must do is create spaces where Breonna Taylor is remembered and where her legacy can inspire us to carry on the hard work of erasing inequality and divisiveness. Amy Sherald’s gift will have transformative power for the law school fellows and scholarship recipients who will benefit from her decision to use her artistic gift to help heal the corrosiveness of hatred and animosity.’

‘I wanted this painting to serve both Breonna’s legacy and her community.’—Amy Sherald

Amy Sherald. Photo: JJ Geiger

‘I made this portrait to honor Breonna’s memory and to support the ongoing struggle for justice,’ said Amy Sherald. ‘I wanted this painting to serve both Breonna’s legacy and her community. I am grateful to the Hearthland Foundation and Ford Foundation, and to the University of Louisville for making this possible, as we forge new paths toward equality.’

Members of Breonna Taylor’s family, including Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer, attended the lecture and reception, along with the Taylor family attorney, Lonita Baker. An alumna of the Law School, Baker discussed the establishment of the lecture series and introduced Law School professor Laura McNeal as the first Breonna Taylor Lecture in Structural Inequality presenter. 

Amy Sherald was recognized as the first recipient of the Brandeis Law School’s Darryl T. Owens Community Service Award, presented to someone who embraces and actively engages the principles of selfless advocacy and engagement with transformative social issues. Owens served as a Kentucky state representative for the district that includes Louisville from 2005 to 2018. He died in January at age 84. His longtime friend and colleague, Kentucky State Sen. Gerald Neal presented the award to Sherald.  

The Breonna Taylor Legacy Fellowship is open to law school students with 60 or more credit hours who secure a legal volunteer position over the summer with a social justice nonprofit organization or agency. Three fellowships supporting stipends of $9,000 will be awarded. Applicants also must demonstrate a commitment to social justice as evidenced by an application essay. The first fellowships will be awarded in summer 2023. 

The Breonna Taylor Legacy Scholarship is open to undergraduate students at the University of Louisville who demonstrate a commitment to social justice as evidenced by an application essay, also. Up to four students will receive funding beginning with one student in fall 2023, two in 2024, three in 2025 and four in subsequent years. Each scholarship is $7,000. 

Amy Sherald’s portrait is currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The Speed Art Museum’s purchase was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s purchase was made possible by a gift from Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg/The Hearthland Foundation. The two foundations granted funding that allowed the two museums to each purchase 50% interest in the painting and enter into a co-ownership agreement. It was Amy Sherald’s desire that the painting be co-owned by the two institutions. The portrait is expected to be presented at the Speed Museum in 2023.