Auburn Family

Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art: Auburn University's Hidden Gem

At the mention of Auburn, the first thought of most people is usually football related.  But just southeast of the football stadium, there exists a quiet and serene part of the campus, on College Street, where the artistic side of humanity can be nourished.  The serene, Italian Travertine structure sits behind a peaceful three acre lake.

 The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, the only university art museum in the state of Alabama, was named in honor of the wife of Albert Smith, an Auburn graduate in 1947.  He donated three million dollars to build this elegant facility as a 50th wedding anniversary gift.  The doors were opened in 2003, and it is considered one of the finest examples of modernist architecture anywhere.  This $13.2 million facility is a rarity in such a small town, exhibiting mainly 19th and 20th century American and European art.  In 2013, the museum was accredited.  This is a coveted status because only 6 percent of the museums in the country have gained this distinction.

Museum highlights include truly amazing artwork by Georgia O’Keefe, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Renoir, John James Audubon and many more. Changing displays vary widely, ranging in style from a sculpture by Rodin to the quilts of Geez Bend. Many educational programs are offered. Additionally, the museum hosts “Jazz Thursdays” and concerts with pianists, guitarists, singers and ethnic musicians.

This peaceful escape consists of 40,000 square feet containing a lobby, terrace, exhibition galleries, museum shop, café and auditorium.  The vaulted rotunda boasts a 3 tier glass chandelier created by Dale Chihuly of Seattle.  The auditorium features the “Alma Mater” mural by Auburn alumnus William Baggett, which depicts life in the small town of Auburn.  The café is a favorite among locals and a great place to meet friends. It offers a good selection of drinks and delicious food, and for $7.00 a delightful meal is provided. 

Outside the museum there are beautiful walking trails and a formal garden designed in the classical European style, complete with fountains.  It features an 11 feet high brass sculpture by Auburn alumnus, Jean Woodham.  The quiet gardens are a great place to sit and relax.

Taylor Ennis, a current Auburn student and former intern, says the museum is a great asset to Auburn University and the community. "The Jule Collins Smith Museum is a free outlet for community members, students, and visitors to express their creativity and experience fine art," Ennis says. "As a student, it's nice to know that we have this cultural experience available to those interested in art. As an intern, I appreciated its outreach into the Auburn community."

In the hustle of college living, it is refreshing to experience such a calm reprieve as the Smith Museum and a “must see” if you are in the area.  It is an Auburn treasure.

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