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Barbara Earl Thomas’ Portrait of Jacob Lawrence installed at UW School of Art


Barbara Earl Thomas’ Portrait of Jacob Lawrence installed at UW School of Art + Art History + Design to Commemorate New Gallery

SEATTLE, WA — In a moving tribute to honor the legendary artist Jacob Lawrence and the grand opening of the new Jacob Lawrence Gallery, the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design unveiled a remarkable portrait of Lawrence created by Seattle-based visual artist Barbara Earl Thomas, commissioned by Allan and Mary Kollar.

On Monday September 25, 2023, Thomas' new masterpiece titled Jacob and the Builders was gracefully installed in the display case at the entrance of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at its new home within the recently renovated UW Art building, a significant milestone reached in March 2023. Thomas, the Kollars, interim gallery director Webster Crowell, and Director of the School of Art + Art History + Design, Jamie Walker, were there to witness the installation.

Allan Kollar, one of many UW art students privileged to study under Lawrence's tutelage, expressed his sentiments regarding the portrait: "This portrait is a tribute to dedicated educators at the University of Washington and the difference they make in their students' lives. It serves as an important reminder of Jacob Lawrence's enduring legacy." Reflecting on his and his wife Mary’s decision to have Thomas create the portrait, Kollar added, "We were both aware of Barbra Earl Thomas’s close association as a student and friend with Jacob. Today Barbara is a major American artist with the same creative drive and humility that defined Jacob Lawrence, and who has extended, through her work, the spirit and essence of her mentor. Barbara was the perfect person to capture the artist and the person in a portrait. Jacob would be so proud."

Barbara Earl Thomas, also one of Lawrence’s former students, shared her emotional journey in creating the portrait: "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."

Three decades after being renamed to honor Lawrence's legacy, the gallery’s new location, adjacent to the Art Building courtyard, not only enables engaging programming but also enhances its visibility on campus, making it more accessible to students and the public. Crucially, the gallery now boasts state-of-the-art security and climate control systems that meet the rigorous standards set by the American Alliance of Museums, allowing for the borrowing of works from other esteemed galleries and museums. This renovation was part of the larger Arts Capital campaign, underscoring the university's profound commitment to the arts, both on campus and in the wider community.

The UW School of Art + Art History + Design will commemorate its transformed spaces and the installation of Thomas' portrait of Lawrence in a grand celebration on November 14, 2023. For more information, visit art.uw.edu.

About Barbara Earl Thomas Barbara Earl Thomas earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Washington in 1977. Her mentors included the legendary Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence. An author as well as visual artist—in 1998 and 2001 she received the Seattle Arts Commission award for non-fiction—she sees herself above all as a storyteller. Thomas has exhibited widely throughout the United States with two recent nationally acclaimed exhibitions, Geography of Innocence (Seattle Art Museum, 2020) and Packaged Black, a collaboration with New York-based artist Derrick Adams (Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, 2021). She recently completed major public commissions for Yale University’s Hopper College, the Multnomah County Courthouse (Portland, OR), Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Seattle, WA), and the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington School of Art + Art History + Design. Thomas is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery (New York, NY).

About the Jacob Lawrence Gallery Situated in the University of Washington's Art Building, the Jacob Lawrence Gallery is 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. Through an ambitious and compelling program of contemporary exhibitions, lectures, performances, screenings, and discussions, the gallery is a site of knowledge production and advancing discourses that serves over 8,000 visitors each year. In 1994, the gallery was dedicated to one of the School's most renowned faculty members, Jacob Lawrence, who taught at the University of Washington from 1970–1985 and served as Professor Emeritus until the end of his life in 2000. The gallery is a tangible, living legacy of Lawrence's exemplary life and practice.

About the School The School of Art + Art History + Design is the center for creative innovation and study at the University of Washington, one of the world's leading public research institutions. The School's focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and the development of new practices enhances both studio and classroom learning as well as fostering dynamic engagement and critical discourse. Our students are inspired to learn through a rigorous and creative academic experience, competitive internships, and international opportunities. Learning from influential faculty, alumni, visiting artists, designers, and scholars, students of our undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs investigate and create in an environment of possibility. To learn more, visit art.uw.edu.

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