NOTE TO MEDIA: Students from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary are scheduled to arrive at the Paul R. Jones Gallery, 2308 6th St., Tuscaloosa, at approximately 9:20 a.m. Oct. 8. There will be a brief student-assisted ribbon-cutting at the door, at which Dr. Robert Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and a representative of the Tuscaloosa City School System will speak briefly. This will be followed by two hours of programmed children’s activities in the gallery.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Fifty art students from two Tuscaloosa schools will visit The University of Alabama’s Paul R. Jones Gallery of Art Oct. 8-9 as part of the gallery’s inaugural K-12 Fellows program.
Students from Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary and Westlawn Middle School will view a selection of works from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art that focuses on the theme of identity. The students will return to their classrooms to create their own works of art based on the theme. These will be displayed in the gallery in the late fall.
“The University of Alabama has reached an important milestone in our stewardship of the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art as we welcome students from Martin Luther King Jr. and Westlawn schools to the gallery,” said Dr. Robert Olin, dean of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“This is the first of what we hope will be many field trip visits by students from kindergarten to high school to view works from the collection. It was Paul Jones’s wish, and ours, that the collection be shared with students to educate and inspire them through the works and contributions of the African-American artists represented in it,” Olin said.
Some 1,700 works of art in the collection valued at $4.8 million were donated to UA in 2008 by the late Paul Raymond Jones, a native of Bessemer and a longtime resident of Atlanta. In 2013, almost 300 works from the Jones estate were added to the collection, bringing the total to approximately 2,000 works and substantially increasing its value.
“This addition expands further what is already one of this country’s largest and most impressive collections of African-American art,” Olin said.
Lucy Curzon, director of education and outreach for the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama and associate professor of art history at UA, said the gallery is working to make the K-12 Fellows program available to more students in the future. She believes the program would make Jones proud.
“He was very much about allowing people to see art in ways that they never had before and sharing art with people who wouldn’t necessarily have that opportunity,” she said. “The program is about opening up the world of art to young people, sharing an important part of America’s heritage with them, and showing how it can strengthen identity and engage the imagination.”
Curzon said she could not think of a better way to honor Jones and the collection than by enabling students to interact with it.
“With the K-12 Fellows program, the art lives in the way he wanted it to live,” she said. “I like the concept of legacy, and this is about legacy – not only Paul’s legacy, but the new legacies we are creating.”
Abel Phillips, visual arts instructor at MLK Elementary, said he wanted his students to participate in the program because it will be a unique experience they will always remember.
“Most of my students come from a low socio-economic background,” he said. “It is important that they experience this program because they may not recognize that an artist can be anyone, and I believe Paul R. Jones knew this when he was buying art from artists. The experience of being in a functioning gallery is important to my students because many have never been to a gallery or seen artwork made by professional artists.”
The Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships and Goldwater Scholarships.