The Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council has awarded $176,000 to the UALR Gallery Program to fund Phase II of a mural conservation project. It marks the second year the council has awarded funding for the project.
UALR seeks to conserve the Joe Jones’ 1935 mural, The Struggle in the South, painted at Commonwealth College in Mena, Arkansas. The mural features images of coal mining, sharecropping, and lynching.
The mural was removed from campus after Commonwealth College closed in 1940. It eventually ended up as building material that lined a closet in a home near Fort Smith, until UALR acquired it in 1984.
The Saint Louis Art Museum contacted the UALR Art Gallery in 2009 as it prepared for an exhibition on Jones. The museum restored a portion of the mural for the exhibition Joe Jones Painter of the American Scene, which ran from October 2010 through January 2011.
Building on the momentum from the exhibit in Saint Louis, the UALR Gallery Program requested funding from ANCRC to conserve the remaining mural pieces.
The conservation project is estimated to take three to four years. Once the project is complete the mural will be installed on the UALR campus along with an exhibition designed to tell the story of the mural and its unique history.
The Phase II ANCRC grant will provide funds to repair tears and nail holes, join various pieces together to create larger panels, prepare surfaces for in-painting, and provide for storage and transportation.
Jones was born in 1909 and died in 1963. He began as a house painter and turned to easel painting as a means of self-expression, and later, as a way to address social injustice.