Norman Oklahoma is known for being an artistic and creative city. A slew of artists, musicians, and writers call it home, as do many art galleries, art installations, and cultural events like the Norman Music Festival and the Medieval Fair.
Plus, the University of Oklahoma fosters an environment where arts and culture thrive, especially at its Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Let’s uncover all the details before visiting the museum during your Norman getaway.
Getting to Know the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
At the heart of the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman OK, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art stands out as a top-tier university art museum in the U.S. with a diverse collection that traverses cultures and eras. It’s an essential academic resource, merging theory with practice through various exhibits and educational activities.
The museum extends its reach beyond academia, serving as Norman’s cultural nexus with public programs that enhance art appreciation and community engagement, reinforcing its role in fostering a lively artistic community.
The origins of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art can be traced back to the 1920s and the vision of Oscar B. Jacobson, the director of the School of Art at the University of Oklahoma. He was instrumental in establishing the university’s first art collection, and he founded the museum as the OU Museum of Art in 1936.
Jacobson, who was also a painter, thought that firsthand contact with original works of art was a vital part of any well-rounded education. Before his museum and art department were started, the closest museum was in St. Louis, and the school was scarce on art supplies. None of this deterred Jacobson, though, and his dedication to art education and appreciation led to the collection growing over the years, primarily through donations and acquisitions.
The Museum’s Namesake
The museum is named after Fred Jones Jr. — an OU alumnus, World War II veteran, and prominent Oklahoma businessman who was piloting an airplane that crashed during his senior year. Upon his passing, his wife made a generous donation to the university for the construction of a museum building in his memory.
This donation — along with a significant endowment from the estate of Clara Weitzenhoffer, a major collector of French Impressionism — greatly expanded the museum’s holdings and helped elevate its status as a leading cultural institution.
The structure that housed the OU Museum of Art was relatively modest, but as the collection and the museum’s role in the community expanded, so too did the need for a larger, more modern space.
With a name and building change, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art officially opened its doors to the public in 1971. Under OU president David Boren’s tenure starting in 1994, the museum expanded its collections, notably receiving the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism in 2000.
Following expansions in 2005 and 2011 — named the Lester and Stuart Wings respectively — the museum now boasts approximately 40,000 square feet of exhibition space.
The Lester Wing incorporates modern elements that seamlessly integrate the old and new structures while doubling the museum’s size. The Stuart Wing enhances the visitor experience and provides additional galleries, an education center, and a museum store.
Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art Collections
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art houses a vast permanent collection that exceeds 20,000 works. Notable collections include the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism and significant Native American and Southwest American art.
Plus, the museum features a permanent collection of 20th-century American art, ceramics, photography, contemporary pieces, Asian art, and historical works on paper. Seasonal temporary exhibitions explore diverse artistic art forms and cultural heritages too.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism
One of the crown jewels of the museum’s permanent collection is the Weitzenhoffer Collection of French Impressionism, which is among the most important gifts ever given to a public university.
Donated by Clara Weitzenhoffer in 2000, this collection features 22 paintings and 11 works on paper by some of the most celebrated French Impressionist artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and others.
Previously unseen for 50 years and known to few scholars, the donation also included Weitzenhoffer’s collection of 18th-century decorative arts, enriching the university’s cultural assets.
Other Featured Collections
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art has more than 15 permanent collections of Native American, French Impressionism, and Southwest American works. Here are the highlights of each:
- The Eugene B. Adkins Collection has been a joint stewardship at the museum since 2007, featuring over 3,300 works of Western and Native American art.
- The James T. Bialac Collection represents North American indigenous cultures through over 4,000 works and has been at the museum since 2010.
- The Ambassador George Crews and Cecilia DeGoyler McGhee Collection is a significant donation of religious icons from Greece, Russia, Romania, and Asia Minor, dating from the 16th to 19th centuries.
- The Carol Beesley Hennagin Collection consists of photographs that Hennagin amassed over 35 years by many of the most renowned photographers of the 20th century.
- The Richard H. and Adeline J. Fleischaker Collection is primarily composed of Native American and Southwestern art.
- The Richard E. Mansfield Collection encompasses Southwestern and Native American art, including works that highlight the cultural and artistic diversity of the artists.
- The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection includes a diverse array of photographic works and art pieces that span various themes and aesthetic styles.
- The Rennard Strickland Collection is known for its focus on depicting Native Americans in art and includes works by both Native and non-Native artists.
- The Priscilla C. and Joseph N. Tate Collection includes a variety of Southwestern art, including 12 masterpieces by the Taos Society of Artists — such as exceptional paintings from artists like Kenneth Adams and Walter Ufer.
- The William H. and Roxanne Thams Collection includes major works by artists from the Taos Society of Artists and is a significant addition to the museum’s collection of Southwestern and Native American art.
- The Harold Stevenson Collection, also known as the “Great Society,” encompasses works by the namesake Oklahoma-born artist who was part of the New York art scene and associated with the Pop Art movement.
- The J. Donald Walp Collection includes a range of works with a particular emphasis on Inuit artwork, offering a glimpse into Arctic life.
- The Wentz-Matzene Collection is a significant assemblage of 758 objects featuring Gandharan sculpture, Persian miniatures, Nepalese and Tibetan art, and Chinese ceramics, bronzes, and jades.
- The Jerome M. Westheimer Sr. Collection is a collection of artwork donated by the geologist and art collector, including a variety of pieces that reflect his taste and passion for art.
- The Creighton E. Gilbert Collection comprises a variety of works with a particular emphasis on Italian Renaissance drawings and prints.
- The Mark Landrum Collection is a notable gift comprising contemporary antiquities, ceramics, and glass.
- The U.S. State Department Collection, also known as the “Advancing American Art” collection, includes modernist paintings by contemporary American artists, such as Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Romare Bearden. It was originally assembled by the U.S. State Department and was acquired by the museum in 1948.
Art of the Americas
The Art of the Americas collection showcases a wide array of artwork from across the Americas, featuring notable Native American pieces from over 125 U.S. tribes, as well as art from Canada’s First Nations and Inuit communities.
Also, it includes a substantial selection of Central and South American works and pre-Columbian artifacts, highlighting the rich artistic heritage of indigenous peoples before Europeans arrived.
The Contemporary Art collection presents a curated selection of mid-20th century to current artwork, capturing the evolution of art through various styles, mediums, and artists — both renowned and rising. It encompasses paintings, sculptures, installations, and multimedia pieces, reflecting the diversity and vibrancy of contemporary art and its engagement with modern societal themes.
The Asian Art collection offers a broad selection of artwork from Asia, featuring Gandharan sculptures, Persian manuscripts, and Chinese ceramics, bronzes, and jades, encapsulating the region’s diverse cultural and artistic heritage.
The European Art collection features masterpieces from the 16th to the 20th century, showcasing key movements and styles pivotal to European art history and cultural evolution.
The Photography collection offers a concise visual history of photography, highlighting its artistic and technical progression through a mix of styles and subjects while providing a comprehensive overview of photography’s impact on visual culture.
Temporary Art Exhibitions & Programs at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art features diverse temporary exhibitions — from historical to contemporary art — that enhance its permanent collection, often with loaned works. These focused displays provide an in-depth exploration of artists, movements, or themes — supporting the museum’s educational goals and fostering cultural conversation.
In addition, the museum enriches visitor experiences with diverse programs, including artist lectures, workshops, tours, and hands-on activities. Meanwhile, tailored educational resources serve students, educators, and families, enhancing art education across all levels.
On top of that, special events — like film screenings and performances — further integrate the arts into community life, upholding the museum’s mission to connect art with audiences and cultivate a deeper appreciation of visual arts.
Visitor Tips & Info for the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
Open Tuesday through Sunday (except for university holidays), visitors can enjoy a variety of free tour options to enhance their experience at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
Self-guided tours allow guests to explore the collections at their own pace, but the museum asks groups of 10 or more to call ahead two weeks in advance. Also, free docent-led tours for up to 50 people are available with one month’s notice. These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who offer in-depth information and insights about the artwork and exhibitions.
Free parking for museum visitors is available across Boyd Street — north of the museum. Signs are in place to designate the complimentary spaces.
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is committed to accessibility for all visitors, offering wheelchair-accessible entrances, elevators, restrooms, and seating. Service animals are welcome, and assistive listening devices are available for programs upon request.
Restaurants Near the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art does not have a dedicated food service facility or cafe. But if you get hungry, there are a few great restaurants within walking distance of the parking lot (our suggestions are within a 10-minute walk):
- Second Wind Coffeehouse is a nonprofit that serves espresso drinks, teas, specialty drinks, and more.
- Hideaway Pizza sticks to its recipes, serving some of the best pizza in the region.
- Greek House makes authentic gyros with the lettuce, onions, and meat piled onto pita bread.
- Fuzzy’s Taco Shop offers flavorful Baja-style tacos and margaritas in a lively setting.
Convenient & Elegant Lodging in Downtown Norman OK
You’re sure to have a great adventure experiencing arts and culture at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. To get rest before and after traveling the world through such amazing art displays, you can stay nearby at Montford Inn. The museum is just a short walk from our downtown Norman OK inn.
Along with booking one of our cozy rooms or intimate cottage suites, you’ll have access to our variety of amenities — such as fireplaces, en-suite bathrooms, and wireless internet. You can also enjoy a homemade gourmet breakfast every morning.
For your next Norman OK getaway, check our room and cottage availability for your travel dates!