Recent Acquisitions at the Paul R. Jones Museum 

Savannah Ichikawa, Contributing Writer

Consisting of 25 different pieces by 21 artists, the exhibit “Recent Acquisitions” is a culmination of several years of work for the Paul R. Jones Museum.  

The opening show of its fall season showcases paintings, prints and mixed media works from artists such as Beverly Buchanan, Ukuu Tafari, Clementine Hunter, Radcliffe Bailey and more.  

The museum, located in downtown Tuscaloosa and operated by The University of Alabama, usually features works solely from the Paul R. Jones collection or one single artist. However, “Recent Acquisitions” features an array of artists, and not all the artwork is exclusively from the Jones’ collection.  

“What’s great about this space is that it’s small enough that it creates a wonderful visual conversation,” Daniel White, the museum director, said. “You see the work as a whole basically from any vanish point.”  

The vibrant and eclectic pieces of work displayed in the Paul R. Jones gallery are eye-catching and bound to impact every viewer in a unique way. There is something for everyone, ranging from folk art to abstract-contemporary and still photography.  

“Recent Acquisitions” was funded by grants from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support from other donors as well as the arts council has made this exhibition possible. 

“The focus in the show is not just the artists but the donors,” White said. “They are the ones who own the artwork and thought well enough of us to give it to the collection.”  

The donors are evidence that people believe in the Paul R. Jones mission, and they highlight how the museum is being recognized and supported in what it is trying to accomplish.  

Emily Bibb, the museum curator, said this exhibit came out of gratitude for their donors and is a testament to the museum’s progression and growth over the past seven years. Bibb said they want people to know they are doing the work to add to the Jones’ collection to keep it relevant.  

“One of the main things we really wanted to do with this exhibit is to broadcast that we are actively collecting and that this is a growing and changing collection,” Bibb said.  

The museum is known for collecting 20th-century African American art and artwork made by Black artists. They place significance on showing artists that have been traditionally marginalized and underrepresented.  

Serving as a platform to celebrate art from all over, “Recent Acquisitions” strives to represent a variety of work and promote more female and young artists.  

White said their mission is specific and purposeful. 

“We’re trying to, when possible, give opportunities that we feel are important to give, and talk about critically important work,” he said. 

Because the museum is small, White said it can take greater risks when selecting and displaying art and is lucky to present a broad range of programming.  

The museum wants to display work that sparks conversations about what is going on in current artistic practices and shows how artists are reacting to contemporary events. Many of the artists work to address different social issues, such as Celestia Morgan and William Paul Thomas. 

Morgan’s work sparks conversations addressing the inequalities amongst housing, land and basic life necessities found within urban areas. The Birmingham-born artist makes viewers reflect on how those disparities affect different communities, and much of her work focuses on Alabama landscapes, particularly from Birmingham.  

For his work, Thomas draws inspiration from analyzing how humans empathize and interact with each other. He said he hopes it encourages people to see the humanity in others, no matter their race or background.  

Thomas said he wants to celebrate normal people by recognizing how everyone is cherished, admired and respected by someone close to them.  

The Paul R. Jones Museum is featuring “Recent Acquisitions,” until Sept. 23, and will hold a reception on Sept. 2, from 5 to 8 p.m.  

“It’s important in any healthy downtown to have unique spaces like this because it creates a vibrant community,” White said. “This is a way for us to directly interact with our community as representatives of the University.” 

Located in downtown Tuscaloosa, The Paul R. Jones Museum is always free and open to the public. Other upcoming programs for this year will feature Cedric Smith, Michael Thorpe and a local K-12 school. 

“We love having people come and visit,” Bibb said. “I think it’s a really great chance to experience the artwork in person and get into a conversation with somebody new about how the artwork makes you feel and think.” 

Learn more about The Paul R. Jones Museum and its events here.