Paul Jones Gallery of Art Opens ‘Identity Lessons’

An exhibition of works curated by students in the College opened this week at The Paul R. Jones Gallery of Art. “Identity Lessons” showcases works from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama, and is on display until Dec. 17. Selections for the exhibit were chosen by more than 200 UA students enrolled in the course “Introduction to Fine Arts,” which is taught in the College’s Department of Art and Art History.

According to Dr. Lucy Curzon, director of education and outreach for the collection, the exhibition sets a unique precedent for student involvement with the collection. The 200 students who participated in curating the exhibit did so in large part through online interactions, including the use of discussion boards, surveys and document sharing.

Students were divided into groups of 10 or 12, and each group was asked to investigate works in the collection. Around these chosen works, each group shaped an exhibition and devised a curatorial statement. Each group’s statement was collaboratively evaluated by the class using electronic methods. The resulting exhibition, “Identity Lessons,” reflects the two winning curatorial statements as determined by the class.

“As a collaborative exercise and an exhibition, ‘Identity Lessons,’ fulfills Mr. Jones’ wish that the collection he gifted to this university be used for teaching purposes; in short, for ‘starting conversations,’ as he once said, between diverse groups of people,” said Curzon.

The gallery honors the late Paul R. Jones who, during his lifetime, amassed one of the largest collections of African-American art in the world. In 2008, Jones donated 1,700 pieces of his collection, valued at $4.8 million, to UA. 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, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m.