Students Highlight Cultural Impact of Immigration in Exhibition

The Paul R. Jones Museum is proud to present “Public Charge”: Diasporic Immigrant Artists, November 1-December 13, 2019. A closing reception will be held on First Friday, December 6, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Painting of a group of African Americans standing in an outdoor farmer's market.
Lester Gunter, Saturday Market, 2005, oil on canvas, Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama, PJ2008.0168. Image used by permission of the artist.

“Public Charge” features works by Latin and Caribbean artists from the Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art, curated by Dr. Wendy Castenell and her ARH 490/550 class with Jones Collection curator Emily Bibb. As Dr. Castenell’s students explain in their curatorial statement about “Public Charge,” they have selected the work of “immigrant artists from the Caribbean, Africa and Latin America who have migrated from one part of the world to another, bringing with them their own cultural norms, and thereby creating a new hybrid American culture. The diasporic themes in this exhibition are relevant in today’s social and political climate, connecting artists from all cultures, in order to create a unique and original body of work that showcases art and artists from outside of the mainstream.”

The students of ARH 490/550 Art History Theory and Methods/Literature of Art are a mix of graduate students and undergraduate majors: Noah Dasinger (senior art history major, double minor in Italian and history), Nadia DelMedico (graduate student, art history), Anna Ingram (senior art history major with a studio art minor), Sarah Murphree (senior double major in art history and studio art, minor in Blount Scholars Program and art history).

After studying a variety of art historical methodologies and theoretical approaches, the students applied what they learned to works in the Jones Collection in order to research and write about them for the exhibition. The students came up with the theme and selected the works that are showcased in the exhibition. They designed the layout for the exhibition, titled the show and collaborated on the curatorial statement that outlines its theme. The title phrase “Public Charge” is an idea debated among politicians and historians in recent national discussions about who should be allowed to immigrate into the U.S.

Dr. Castenell explained how the interplay between the students’ research and their curatorial work will benefit the students: “In addition to developing these important scholarly skills, however, working directly with the objects in the Jones Collection has further pushed their boundaries. The students are pursuing a variety of specialties from Medieval and Italian Renaissance to Modern Asian and European art. Therefore this project is giving the class the opportunity to research Modern and Contemporary African American art, and most importantly, to learn to work directly with art objects in a museum collection—a skill that is essential for art historical practice.”

Senior Sarah Murphree summed up the exhibition’s purpose: “By overlooking these artists we have limited the narrative of our country and its story. These ‘public charges’ have been creating work for decades that is striking, meaningful and artistically brilliant and it is time to recognize them for their talent and hard work.”

Image credit: Lester Gunter, Saturday Market, 2005, oil on canvas, Paul R. Jones Collection of American Art at The University of Alabama, PJ2008.0168. Image used by permission of the artist.

The Paul R. Jones Museum is located at 2308 Sixth Street, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35401. Hours are Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and First Friday of each month, 12 noon until 8:00 p.m. For more information about this exhibition and all our programs, call 205-345-3038 or go to the website:

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.