UA’s Paul Jones Gallery of Art to Unveil ‘Black is Beautiful’ Exhibit

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — University of Alabama students have curated an art exhibition that responds to stereotypical portrayals of African-Americans.

The exhibit, titled “Black is Beautiful,” opens Friday, March 4 at the Paul R. Jones Gallery of Art in downtown Tuscaloosa and will be on display until April 29.

A reception will be held March 4 at the gallery from 5:30–7:30 p.m. Both the reception and the exhibit are free and open to the public.

The students curated the exhibit as part of an African-American art class taught by Dr. Wendy Castenell, assistant professor of art history at UA.

Upon coming to the University last semester, Castenell immediately incorporated visits and projects involving the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art into her classes. The collection, housed at UA, includes more than 2,100 pieces and is one of the largest collections of African-American art in the world.

“Last semester, with the help of Emily Bibb, the collection’s manager, my African-American art class curated an online exhibition of works from the Jones Collection,” Castenell said. “It was only on Blackboard, and only the students registered in the class could see the work, but it was a success.”

Bibb was so impressed with the class’s work that in December she offered Castenell’s students the opportunity to curate a live exhibit.

“I immediately accepted her offer,” Castenell said, “because it would clearly be an amazing opportunity for the students.”

“Black is Beautiful” investigates the various ways that artists have used the black image to counter stereotypical portrayals found throughout popular culture. After looking through the entire Jones Collection, each student chose one piece for the show—making 12 in total.

The exhibit will showcase the photography, sculptures and paintings of Elizabeth Catlett, James Van Der Zee, P.H. Polk, Sheila Pree Bright, Floyd Atkins, Joyce Owens, Artis, Ming Smith, Otis G. Sanders and Lori Crawford.

“In a world dominated by white protagonists, we’re placing people of color at center stage,” said Tanesha Childs, a senior majoring in photography.

The Paul R. Jones Gallery honors the late Paul R. Jones who, during his lifetime, amassed one of the largest collections of African-American art in the world. Jones donated more than 2,100 pieces of his collection, now valued at $10.3 million, to UA in 2008.

Jones was known as a passionate collector who sought to collect from both well-known and lesser-known artists, a quality which makes his collection distinct.

The Paul R. Jones Gallery is located at 2308 6th St. in downtown Tuscaloosa. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the first Friday of every month from noon to 8 p.m.

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, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.


Courtney Corbridge, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539,


Wendy Castenell, 205/348-1904,