Deity Humanity Materiality by Ding Jin

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JLG 2023 Highlights

Submitted on September 26, 2023 - 3:58am
Jacob Lawrence Gallery, 2023. Photo: Sean Airhart
Jacob Lawrence Gallery, 2023. Photo: Sean Airhart

Jacob Lawrence was a renowned artist when he joined the faculty of the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design (the School) in 1971, at age 54. Lawrence had a profound impact on students at UW—where he taught until 1986—and on the broader arts community in the Pacific Northwest. Recognizing his impact, The School’s faculty chose to name the Art Building’s first floor gallery in honor of Lawrence in 1993.

Since its inception, the gallery has been a vital center for social engagement and critical dialogue about the roles of art, art history, and design within the broader context of intellectual life on campus. A lack of resources and vision limited the gallery’s presence on campus for decades. When Jamie Walker assumed his appointment as Director of the School in 2014, with the encouragement of colleagues and community members, he developed the vision to make the gallery a place that would honor and respect the legacy of Lawrence. Since then, under Walker’s leadership, the School began redirecting efforts to revitalize the gallery and has accomplished significant benchmarks, including the addition of a professional gallery director and curator and the creation of special programs reflecting Lawrence’s legacy. The two former gallery directors, Scott Lawrimore (2014-2016) and Emily Zimmerman (2017-2022) played a significant role in manifesting the vision during their tenure.

Fast forward to 2023

Three decades after its inception, the Jacob Lawrence Gallery moved into a new home through a renovation of the UW Art building. The project is part of the larger Arts Capital campaign that includes renovations to spaces in the Art and Music buildings, reflecting the university’s deep commitment to the role of the arts on campus and beyond. The gallery’s new location adjacent to the Art Building courtyard allows for engaging programming not possible before and it increases its visibility on campus, making it more accessible to students and the public. Most importantly, the gallery’s security and climate control systems now meet American Alliance of Museums standards, allowing it to borrow work from other galleries and museums. A true state-of-the-arts gallery.

Following the completion of the building renovations earlier in the year, the School’s calendar has been filled with events commemorating the new gallery space. These are some of the highlights:

From June 2022 through March 2023, the design build team of GLY + Mithun renovates the first floor in the Art building and relocates the gallery to its home.

In February 2023, Mithun installs new gallery window designed by Kristine Matthews, School associate professor of visual communication design (VCD), and VCD alum Edith Freeman (BDes, 2022). Inspired by Lawrence’s use of trade tools in his practice and often included in his work, the permanent glass windows feature a mix of tools found in the art building—some that belonged to Lawrence himself—photographed by Katie Heckart.

From March through June 2023, the gallery moves into its new space and opens its doors to the public for the 2023 Graduation Exhibitions featuring art, art honors, and design graduating seniors.

In May 2023, the School receives a 30,000 USD Grants for Arts Projects award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency happening in winter 2024.

In August 2023, Seattle-based visual artist and School alum Barbara Earl Thomas is commissioned to create a portrait of Lawrence to commemorate the opening of the new gallery.

“It was a gift, after so many years, to sit and think deeply about Jacob, and to reflect on who he was for me and so many others. I conjured him in my mind’s eye and held his gaze to remember him as a teacher, artist, and friend. The journey was emotional because my goal was to capture not merely his likeness, but his essence.” —Barbara Earl Thomas.

The portrait is a generous gift from Mary and Allan Kollar and is now installed by the gallery entrance.

What’s next

In November 2023, the School will host a grand celebration that commemorates the transformed School’s spaces and the installation of Barbara Earl Thomas’ portrait of Jacob Lawrence.

From February through March 2024, the gallery will host the 8th annual Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency, a month-long residency for a Black artist with an interest in social justice. The artist will spend February at UW creating a new body of work, which is exhibited in the gallery in March.