Loïs Mailou Jones & Howard University

Loïs Mailou Jones (right) and her friend Frances Garret on the campus of Howard University, c. 1931, Photo Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

On display at NMWA until January 9, 2011, Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color is the first major retrospective spanning the artist’s career of more than 75 years. One unique aspect of this traveling exhibition’s stint in Washington, D.C., is Loïs Mailou Jones’s ties to the District, and in particular, to Howard University.

Loïs Mailou Jones’s legacy is felt strongly at Howard, where she was a design professor for nearly half a century. Personally invited by James Vernon Herring, founder of the Howard University Art Department, Jones joined renowned art historian James Porter as a faculty member in 1930. Many artists of note studied with the Department during Loïs Mailou Jones’s tenure, including Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, Starmanda Bullock, and Akili Ron Anderson to name a few.

Given Loïs Mailou Jones’ history with Howard, the University was eager to partner with NMWA in offering programs for museum members and visitors to supplement the exhibition. Past and present students of the Howard University Art Department, myself included, participated in Member Day on October 13, and Dr. Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, Associate Dean of the Howard University College of Arts and Sciences and author of The Life and Art of Loïs Mailou Jones, presented a lecture highlighting the cultural, social, and geographical variety of Jones’s oeuvre. Coinciding with Howard’s Homecoming, this past weekend was designated as Howard University Weekend at NMWA: all students, alumni, faculty and staff of the University received free admission to the exhibition. Throughout the month of November, current and past members of the Art Department will present Gallery Talks, exploring specific aspects of the exhibition.

–Melanie J. Spears, a graduate of  Howard University, is Research Assistant at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center focusing on Prints and Photographs.


Loïs Mailou Jones (first row, third from right) on a Howard University faculty trip to Hawaii in July of 1967, Photo Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Loïs Mailou Jones with Dr. Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, presenting The Life and Art of Loïs Mailou Jones, c. 1995, Photo Courtesy of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

2 thoughts on “Loïs Mailou Jones & Howard University

  1. As an entering freshman at the College of Fine Arts in 1978, I learned of her recent retirement and was so disappointed that I had just missed the opportunity to be a full-time student of hers. Fortunately, the late Lucille Malkia Roberts would regularly invite her to our Design classes. What an amazing gift. The watercolors she would paint, and the information she shared were priceless.

  2. This is a terrific exhibit. I spent a long time looking at her portraits especially. I was struck by how she responded to her environment through her art and how her art changed in response as well. I hope the exhibition gets the attention it deserves.

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