A few weeks ago I decided to do something crazy, I took my daughter, Mae, and her best friend, Bubbles, to the Fred Jones Jr. Art Museum in Norman. If you don’t know Norman, the museum is located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, it sits on the southeast corner of Boyd Street and Elm Avenue. Now my daughter had been there before, a few years ago they had a temporary exhibit of Disney animation but this was Bubbles first visit.
The museum has an interesting mix of art work, from African statues, to Japanese woodblock prints, to American Indian pottery, to the masters like Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet. On this trip they were also having a limited time showing of the works of Oscar B. Jacobson (more on him later). The girls at least stopped and looked at most of the exhibits, there were some they liked more than others. The contemporary art on the lower floor was really what they liked the most, especially the interactive exhibits like the one that you blow into and the art changes. I was able to have some fun at their expense when I went into the gallery that apparently had a sign saying that the material might not be suitable for younger people. I didn’t see the sign and was halfway down the gallery when a painting with male parts was right in front of me. Now the girls had been behind me and one of them let out a gasp, before I knew it they were both running out of the gallery. I tried and tried to get them to come back (all while laughing at them) but they both had red cheeks from embarrassment.
The best part to me was the glass displays on the main floor as well as the exhibit of Oscar B. Jacobson. I had heard about him but never had the chance to see his work until this visit. Why would I have heard of him, I’m no art expert but I am a history lover and I knew he was the first director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma. He took over that position in 1916 and held it until 1954. He also founded the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art in 1936 in what is now called Jacobson Hall on the North Oval of the campus. He was a painter who specialized in southwestern landscapes. I’m no art critic and can only draw stick people on a good day, but his work really stood out to me for his use of brighter colors to showcase the scenery of Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. I’m not big on landscapes but these were really nice.
I know that some of you might want to know, why the name changed? It became the Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art center in 1971 after Mr. and Mrs. Fred Jones (yeah, the Ford people here in OKC) donated the money for the museum. It officially became the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in 1992. In 2005 a new addition, the Lester Wing, named for Howard and Mary Lester, was added and in 2011, the Stuart Wing was opened as well. So who was Fred Jones Jr.? He was the son of the aforementioned Jones’s. He had been killed in a plane crash in Arkansas around Christmas 1950. He was a senior at OU after serving in World War II.
So what is my recommendation any kid who is interested in art will like this museum, no matter the age. But I think even then waiting until they are maybe around 8 would be good. Anything younger than that and they might get bored real quick. It was a nice, quiet visit. The staff was very friendly and more than happy to talk about the artwork on display. Best part of the whole trip was- it’s Free. That’s right, free. Thanks to a gift from the OU Athletics Department, it is free for everyone.
Address: 555 Elm Avenue, Norman, OK