A new exhibition celebrates the work of the late John Miller Howard, artist and founder of the arts department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, June 9 through Dec. 3.
The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC), in collaboration with UAPB, will present the exhibition “An Arkansas Master: The Work of John Howard” beginning with a drop-in reception from 5-7 p.m. June 9, according to a news release.
“An Arkansas Master” features 16 paintings from UAPB’s John Howard Legacy Collection and ASC’s permanent collection. The works depict landscapes, houses, still lifes and abstract images. A grant from the Windgate Foundation made it possible for UAPB to restore 10 of the works — four paintings and six watercolor pieces.
A longtime UAPB professor, Howard was an African American artist and arts leader. The Georgia-born artist was recruited in 1939 to start the art department at the university, then known as Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal (AM&N) College.
“Howard worked to provide a top-quality arts education to his students, many of whom came from rural backgrounds and lacked exposure to art. He taught at the university until his death in 1980,” according to the release.
The artist experimented in a variety of media and techniques, and “An Arkansas Master” celebrates the uniqueness of his body of work, ASC Curator Jessica Lenehan said.
“John Howard’s legacy is alive and well in the state of Arkansas, especially in Pine Bluff,” Lenehan said. “Those Howard mentored have gone on to have enormous impacts in the arts community throughout the state, spreading Howard’s passion for the arts and his vision of the arts as an inclusive community. Howard’s dedication to his students, to his university, and to the arts was unmatched and unwavering.” Nationally known artists who graduated from Howard’s program include Jeff Donaldson and Kevin Cole.
“Today’s students benefit from Howard’s tireless advocation for his department and university and his insistence upon the importance of arts education,” Lenehan said. “His legacy lives on in those who follow in his footsteps, railing against racial and economic barriers to provide access to the arts and make a life filled with meaning.” Howard’s contributions also include his significant role in designing the Isaac Hathaway Fine Arts Center and securing funding for the construction of the building at UAPB, said Karen DeJarnette, associate professor and interim chair of UAPB’s department of art and design.
“Howard convinced the Arkansas Higher Education Commission to fully fund the $1.4 million fine arts center, according to the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas. In 1969, the building opened to house the music, theater and art departments. Howard insisted upon naming the building after Isaac Hathaway, a former arts faculty member,” according to the news release.
The UAPB building is currently named the Isaac S. Hathaway-John M. Howard Fine Arts Center in honor of both men.
“His legacy as a painter, professor, and administrator continues to inspire UAPB’s faculty and students,” DeJarnette said.
“An Arkansas Master: The Work of John Howard” will be on display in the Ben J. Altheimer Gallery in ASC’s main building, 701 S. Main St. Gallery admission is always free. The exhibition is sponsored by UAPB and the Arts & Science Center Endowment Fund, and the reception is sponsored by MK Distributors.