The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art In Norman
In Norman, Oklahoma, the 120-year-old University of Oklahoma makes its home. Established in 1890 next door to Indian Territory 17 years before Oklahoma became a state, the university undoubtedly has much history and character.
But for a rather old and quite small city and university, it holds one rather surprising gem: the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma. Formally established in the 1930’s, this museum with humble beginnings has blossomed into one of the most prized art museums associated with a university in the U.S.
The Fred Jones Jr Museum officially got underway in 1936, with the generous gift of 750 east Asian art objects.
Professor Oscar Jacobsen, the director of the very small School of Art, was named the museum’s director. When Jacobsen started at the school in 1915, there was no publicly available art museum in the state. He made it his mission to help nurture his art student’s development by collecting pieces himself. By the time the museum opened in 36, he was able to contribute over 2,500 pieces.
The museum became the first publicly available art collection in the entire state. It got its current name in 1971, when Mr. & Mrs. Fred Jones’ son, a senior at the university, passed away in a plane crash. They donated a fine arts building in his honor, which came to house the university’s Museum of Art.
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum is dedicated to the visual arts and sharing their knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment with students and the public alike.
From its humble start in 1936 with just 750 artifacts from East Asia and a mish mash collection from Jacobsen, it has grown exponentially. The museum now boasts a permanent collection of nearly 17,000 objects.
A major part of its collection is the James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection, which has more than 4,500 objects. The powerhouses of its permanent collection include:
- Native American art
- Art unique to the Southwest
- 20th century painting and sculpture of the U.S.
- Asian art from the 16th century to the present
- Masterpieces of French Impressionism on display from The Weitzenhoffer Collection
In addition to their impressive permanent collections, they also host temporary exhibitions throughout the year, focusing on many periods and cultures.
Overall, this excellent, fine collection has earned The Fred Jones Jr. Museum both national and international attention. It is considered one of the finest university art museums the country has to offer.
There are many reasons to visit the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma. Here are just a few:
- Admission is always free: Beginning in 2012, a generous annual donation of $60,000 from the OU Athletics Department enables the museum to offer admission for free. This is the first such collaboration between athletics and art on a US university campus.
- Unique Native American Collections: Originating so near to Indian Territory, it should come as no surprise that the Fred Jones Jr. museum is a champion of Native American art and artifacts. In 2010, the collection became prominent when James T. Bialac donated his private collection of over 2,600 paintings, 1,000 kachinas, and 400 works of various other artifacts such as pottery, ceramics, and jewelry. The collection includes both old and contemporary works.
- Opportunities for everyone: Because of the generous athletics department donation, the museum is able to focus funds on other opportunities, including hands-on opportunities for visitors and children. For just $2, on the right days, attendees can participate in making a still life painting or a ceramic pot. There are tons of programs for kids and families, K-12 programs, and of course for university students and faculty as well.