By Natalie Salvatore
For The Observer
Located along a popular route for Auburn students and transits alike, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, or the Jule, brings the entire community together to experience visual arts. Open since 2003, the museum provides a creative perspective that can be influential, especially in a child’s school years.
The Jule is all about innovation and encouraging collaboration among students, faculty and local citizens. Because the university is a public research institution that takes pride in object-based research, the Jule embodies this motto. The museum allows its guests to learn about different artistic modes while developing their cultural sense and relationships with one another.
Charlotte Hendrix is the Jule’s senior communications and marketing specialist. She said that, at its core, the museum showcases diversity, community and accessibility.
“My role is to promote the museum as a welcoming space for everyone to explore, engage with and experience the visual arts,” she said. “I also highlight the ways in which the museum serves East Alabama and beyond as part of Auburn University.”
She works closely with her fellow senior directors on a day-to-day basis.
“We are often working on the next exhibition, as well as public programs that will engage the public,” Hendrix said. “There is also time spent dedicated to the exhibitions on-view and the accompanying engagements.”
There are three exhibitions currently on view through Jan. 2: “Anila Quayyum Agha: The Weight of Black,” “The Joy Fields” and “Outside In.”
The “Outside In” exhibit features the Auburn’s Museum of Natural History seasonal specimens along with some of the Louise Hauss and David Brent Miller Audobon Collection selections. The specimens are showcased next to their corresponding artwork representations that quite accurately display the 19th-century components.
Guests are welcome to explore all the exhibitions the museum has to offer. Exhibits provide different artistic experiences, all of which promote learning opportunities. Exhibition season partnerships are welcomed and encouraged.
These experiences give people the chance to share their interest in art with the surrounding community. The Jule has different sustaining partnerships ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. To learn more about the parameters with each type, visit the website, which is linked at the end of this article.
Hendrix said that many university employees, as well as community members, feel a sense of pride for the quality of the exhibitions. Those retiring in Auburn feel a welcoming presence when they step through the museum’s doors.
“Many school-aged children begin a lifelong love of museums by visiting as a part of a program or tour,” Hendrix said. “I’ve also observed people enjoying the grounds for recreation and relaxation, as there are several outdoor sculptures on view.”
The Jule provides children and university students with a level of art exposure that goes beyond classroom learning.
This museum was one of the first in Alabama to reopen with limited occupancy in August 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate a safer start, the Jule implemented guidelines from Auburn’s “A Healthier U,” which is the university’s way to combat the virus while keeping the school open. For example, on Aug. 3, Auburn reinstalled the indoor mask policy, regardless of vaccination status. The Jule followed suit.
Hendrix said that visiting the museum is a suitable activity for many, partly because one can go alone or in a small group. Therefore, museum guests can still visit the museum while keeping in mind social distancing and other health precautions.
The Jule will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2023 with celebrations, including bringing back the juried outdoor sculpture exhibition. While observing all that the museum has to offer, guests can stop by to browse in the museum shop while there. The shop provides unique gifts that are curated from museum collections and exhibits. Works are affordable and created by local and regional artists.
Purchases in the shop go toward developing the museum’s program. Museum guests, as well as Auburn University students, faculty and staff, [can] receive discounts on the regular merchandise also. The Jule accepts charitable gifts and donations. There is no fee for admission to the museum. However, those who donate can help preserve the museum’s collections, as well as contribute to the engagement opportunities held with school-aged children and college students.
The Jule is located at 901 S. College St. and is available via the Tiger Transit using the Fine Arts line. The museum’s hours of operation are Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with an extension until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. It is closed every Monday. The wide-ranging hours give both students and community members flexibility in visiting the museum at their own convenience.
To make a donation, visit the website, www.jcsm.auburn.edu/. To learn more, call 334-844-1484.