The Norman Transcript

N-town Q/A

January 10, 2014

Q&A: Emily Ballew Neff comes to OU inspired



I first saw the Fred Jones back in 2001 and the Weitzenhoffer Collection was just coming in. ... Just the whole thing was terrific. To come back many years later and see how it has doubled in size, has a brand new building and has just been growing — and not just growing in terms of numbers or statistics but growing smartly and strategically. All of that is very impressive. So obviously I want to maintain the excellence that is already there. That’s a great thing. You don’t build excellence overnight.

... This is what’s so great about the Fred Jones. It’s a great university art museum that obviously wants, needs and already does serve the needs and mission of the university but also functions as a museum on its own terms. That’s the part that I’m really going to be very interested in observing.

Q: Why do you think art and museums are important?

A: Can you imagine life without it? It speaks to this idea of what it means to be human. This gets to the area of fundraising, but one thing that’s really frustrating is obviously health issues will always take precedence when it comes to funding. We, of course, gravitate towards those life and death issues. But if you’re fortunate enough to be alive and healthy, what about the quality of living? Do you want to live in a society that doesn’t celebrate creativity and living?

University museums are about ideas, the history of ideas and knowledge and spending four years interacting with all these different ideas, histories and so forth. Art is the physical aspect of this world of ideas. It’s made concrete. That to me is what’s so exciting about not only the art museum but a university art museum, is you’re already surrounded by this world of ideas and the art objects are a physical manifestation of that. Art is about being human and the human experience. What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be a human in the 21st century? Art museums help us look at the greatest examples of art and why that art work was made and why does it look that way?

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