The Norman Transcript

October 22, 2011

Museum offering free admission during opening celebration

By James S. Tyree
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The director of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery gave high praise to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on Friday, ahead of today’s public opening of the Stuart Wing.

“This is a gorgeous museum,” Martin Sullivan said during a President’s Associates dinner at the Oklahoma Memorial Union ballroom. “It is a beautiful addition to what is already a fabulous (campus).”

The museum at 555 Elm Ave. is offering free admission today and Sunday to celebrate the opening of the Stuart Wing, a $13 million, 18,000-square-foot expansion that will house the Eugene B. Adkins Collection, a large, acclaimed collection of Taos and American Indian artists.

The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Adkins Collection, to be split between the Fred Jones Jr. museum in Norman and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, is valued at about $50 million. It has about 3,300 objects, including more than 400 American Indian paintings.

OU President David Boren said the Stuart Wing’s opening coincides with the university museum’s 75th anniversary.

OU received its first art collection in 1936, yet Boren said 90 percent of the museum’s total collection was received in the past 14 years — a statement that elicited reactions of surprise from a number of the more than 1,000 people in attendance.

Sullivan, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery director, called the new wing and its collection an “early Christmas present” for the university. But he also said the Fred Jones Jr. museum was already a special place in five key areas: mission, vision, values, scope and spirit.

He said the museum’s beautiful showcase of a building, coupled with its virtual exhibits through social media and the museum’s website, serves the mission of making the museum accessible to people, no matter where they are.

Sullivan said the vision comes from the university’s supporters and administrators who fully support the museum, a situation that doesn’t happen everywhere.

The museum’s values come, in part, from the premium it places on intercultural understanding through its collections and exhibits.

“There’s an extraordinary breadth of material here, especially in the Native American side,” Sullivan said.

As for scope, Sullivan said the Fred Jones Jr. museum “feels like home” and that it has a tangible enthusiasm that comes from donors and artists to the staff, volunteers, students and visitors.

“The spaces invite people to linger and interact with the art, to have that personal encounter with it,” he said. “It’s also a place where people work together as real colleagues. There is a real spirit here.”

James S. Tyree 366-3541 jtyree@normantranscript.com