African American Collection on Display at JCSM, Auburn University

  • AUBURN, Alabama
  • /
  • November 15, 2011

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Hughie Lee-Smith, Navy Sailor, 1944, oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, courtesy Arthur Primas Collection
Bryam Collier, Uptown, 2004, collage and mixed media, 17 ½ x 17 3/8 inches, courtesy Arthur Primas Collection


AUBURN, Ala. - The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University presents the exhibition, Promises of Freedom: Selections from the Arthur Primas Collection, on display in the Bill L. Harbert Gallery and Gallery C from Dec. 10, 2011-March 10, 2012.

Promises of Freedom features an impressive range of works from a significant private collection of African American art. The exhibition includes 75 paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints by more than 30 artists and spans a period of 150 years.

Highlighting artwork by Benny Andrews, Richmond Barthé, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence, Howardena Pindell, and Hale Woodruff, among others, the exhibition vividly illustrates the universal quest for freedom and its impediments.

Texas resident and prominent entertainment manager, Arthur Primas has amassed a richly rewarding and provocative collection of art, of which he considers himself not the "owner" but its "guardian."

Until recently, art history curriculums and literature did not give adequate recognition to African American artists. Now these artists are widely acknowledged for their creativity, achievements and considerable contributions to the history of American art.

As Primas has benefitted so deeply from the lessons of this art and its makers, he considers it a valuable experience worth sharing, and thus has offered his collection for travel. Promises of Freedom is organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions and The Heritage Gallery in Los Angeles.

Several related programs and events are scheduled during Jan.-March to complement the exhibition:

Thursday, January 19, 2012, 6 pm, Spring Opening, Lecture by collector Arthur Primas


Thursday, January 26, 2012, 5 pm, Poetry Reading: Ekphrasic poetry reading by 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner, Natasha Trethewey, who holds the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University.

Romare Bearden, Pilate (Misty Island), 1979, lithograph, 22 x 15 1/16 inches, courtesy Arthur Primas Collection


Thursday, February 9, 2012, 4 pm, Gallery Talk: "Three Paintings by Robert Colescott," by Professor Kathryn Floyd, Auburn University Department of Art


Thursday, February 16, 2012, 5 pm, Lecture: "A History of African American Music," Professor Rosephanye Powell and Professor William Powell, Auburn University Department of Music.


Thursday, March 1, 2012, 5 pm, Performance: Theatre and Music inspired by the Arthur Primas Collection.

Theatrical performances directed by Professor Heather May and performed by members of Auburn University's Department of Theatre. Musical performances provided by faculty and students of Auburn University's Department of Music. Thank you to Professor Howard Goldstein of Music for coordinating the music.

 For more information on the exhibition or upcoming events, please visit or call 334-844-1484.


Colleen Bourdeau
Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art
901 South College St
Auburn, Alabama
About Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art

Open since 2003, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University is Alabama’s only university art museum. Serving as the gateway into Auburn University, the museum is home to many pieces of culturally significant art. The collection includes 115 Audubon prints, a rare group of more than 40 Tibetan bronzes and works by important American artists, such as Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and Lyonel Feininger. The museum rotunda hangs a three-tiered, hand-blown glass chandelier created especially for the museum by internationally-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. The beauty continues onto the grounds of the museum with fifteen acres of gardens, walking paths and water features, complete with an eleven and a half foot tall brass sculpture, Spinoff, created by Auburn alumna Jean Woodham.

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