UD signs historic agreement with Spelman College

Celebrating the agreement in Atlanta are (from left) Paul R. Jones, Spelman College President Audrey Forbes Manley and UD President David P. Roselle

The University of Delaware and Spelman College have signed an historic partnership agreement to create educational opportunities for students and faculty in conjunction with the Paul R. Jones Collection of African-American art, a premier compilation that was presented to UD early this year.

UD President David P. Roselle and Spelman College President Audrey Forbes Manley signed the agreement during a reception Oct. 25 in Atlanta to mark the fifth anniversary of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and the opening of the exhibition "Through These Eyes: The Photographs of P.H. Polk," which is drawn from the collection.

"Spelman has a rich tradition of gathering family and friends to celebrate firsts, and truly this is an historic occasion," Manley told scores of onlookers, including members of P.H. Polk's family, who filled the museum gallery.

"You are witnessing the signing of an agreement that creates a partnership of enormous national significance between Spelman College and the University of Delaware," she said. "This agreement is a gift to Spelman, a gift to Delaware and a gift to everyone who loves art."

"The University of Delaware is honored to join Spelman College in this ground-breaking agreement," Roselle said. "This agreement is most remarkable in that it brings together the unique resources of two institutions of higher education as partners in a common cause. It is a significant landmark in the history of higher education and ushers in a new era of cooperation."

Under the terms of the agreement, Spelman College and the University of Delaware have agreed to create opportunities for students and faculty from both institutions to participate in programs associated with the Paul Jones Collection.

The institutions will form a joint advisory committee to facilitate implementation of the agreement, and that committee will serve to bring together members of the faculties.

The committee will work to develop student internships, stimulate faculty exchanges, provide for expanded graduate study opportunities and build institutional links between various programs at Spelman and UD.

In addition, the institutions will share relevant art exhibitions and pieces from the collection itself.

Jones, an Atlanta resident, said it was part of his dream in giving the collection to UD that it would foster interaction between the institution and historically black colleges and universities.

Spelman, he said, showed great vision in being the first historically black college to step forward.

Jones has dual missions for his collection, one in art and the other in education. "He wants to change the way people look at works by African-American artists," Roselle said. "He wants to give those works, and to give those artists, their rightful place in the pantheon of American art. He also wants to change the way colleges and universities look at their missions, look at the way they educate students and look at the way they work with one another."

The agreement creates a positive situation for both institutions, Jones said, adding that they enter as equal partners with unique perspectives and attributes.

Manley, friends for three decades with Jones, said he was interested in finding a home for the collection "where it could receive the quality of care the art needs and deserves.

"When I learned he selected the University of Delaware," she said, "I told him he had made a very wise decision. I have no doubt that Delaware will be a great home for this collection."

UD has nationally recognized programs in art, art history, art conservation and museum studies and a strong technology infrastructure to support creation of digital images of the works in the collection that can be made available to students worldwide via the Internet.

"Through These Eyes: The Photographs of P.H. Polk," which opened Oct. 25 at the Spelman Museum of Fine Art, is believed to be the longest running and most successful show the University of Delaware Gallery at Old College has yet mounted. It opened on the UD campus in 1998 and since has toured the nation.

A new show, "Original Acts: Photographs of African-American Performers from the Paul Jones Collection," is being prepared and will open Jan. 15, 2002, in the University of Delaware Gallery. The show will run through March 28 on campus, before traveling, with the first stop in Atlanta.

by Neil Thomas

Photo by AMALIA AMAKI