Katie Robinson Edwards @ the OJAC

Katie Robinson Edwards @ the OJAC

The OJAC Focus Lecture Series is a quarterly offering of presentations by artists, speakers and historians on a variety of social, cultural and historical topics ranging from the visual arts to community and Texas History.

Katie Robinson Edwards, the curator of the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum in Austin and author of Midcentury Modern Art in Texas was at the OJAC to share insights about midcentury Texas art, specifically highlighting the artists of The Fort Worth Circle. The OJAC is home to the largest public collection of works from artists of The Fort Worth Circle - a group of artists that became teachers, university faculty and mentors to a new generation of Texas artists.

Banner Image: 

Head, 1953.
Bror Utter

American (1913-1994)
Oil on board
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. Ernest Chilton, Jr.



37 Years of Art for All

37 Years of Art for All

Happy Birthday OJAC! This week we celebrate 37 years of art for all

OJAC began in December of 1980 when cousins and OJAC co-founders Reilly Nail and Bill Bomar opened the museum with four small galleries in the original Shackelford County jail building. In 37 years, the museum has expanded from four small galleries into 17,000 square feet of gallery, education, archive and research space that offers diverse and innovative exhibitions and education programming that serves a core audience of 25 rural counties. OJAC is also part of a select group of museums accredited with the American Alliance of Museums. 

Since the beginning, the philosophy of the OJAC has been to offer engaging exhibitions and education programs free to the public, at no cost to visitors.  

Thank you to our OJAC Board and Docents, volunteers, donors, and members that continue to make our vision of art for all that is free for all possible!


2017 - Year of the Membership

2017 - Year of the Membership

2017 was the "Year of Membership" for the OJAC, our goal in January was to increase membership by 25% by year-end and I'm happy to announce we have surpassed our original goal! OJAC membership has grown by 118%! 

The OJAC thanks our generous members that carried out a "random act of membership" (aka R.A.M.) by purchasing memberships anonymously for friends, family, and even strangers.

A huge thanks as well to those who renewed their memberships, not to mention our membership committee for their efforts. Dare we ask to keep that percentage going up? 150% is a nice even number!

You can become a member, renew a lapsed membership, or give a membership as a holiday gift. Purchase or Renew your membership by clicking here or when you visit the museum! 

Thank you for helping the OJAC share and support ART FOR ALL.


OJAC Co-founder Bill Bomar

OJAC Co-founder Bill Bomar

Born in Fort Worth, Texas on December 30, 1919, Bill Bomar began his life-long love of painting at the age of seven. It was at this young age, while sitting for a commissioned portrait by the artist Murray Bewley, that Bomar’s interest in the world of art was kindled

For nearly 30 years Bomar made his home at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, using the space as a studio and absorbing the city's engrossing artistic atmosphere. "A person is exposed to a wide range of expression in New York," he commented. "It is invaluable to anyone who is trying to discover his own vocabulary in painting." In 1970 Bomar left the city and moved full time to New Mexico, a place where he had spent many summers.

It was through his mother, Jewel Nail Bomar, and the Nail family, that Bomar maintained a connection with the Albany, Texas area. In the late 1970s, together with his cousin Reilly Nail, the two co-founded what would become the Old Jail Art Center. Combining their collections of 20th century modern art along with art from their mothers’ collections, the museum opened in December of 1980. Today the Old Jail Art Center encompasses some 17,000 square feet and is a thriving, widely-acclaimed art museum dedicated to the visual arts and to preserving the local history of the Shackelford County area.

Banner Image Credit:

Nile at Luxor, 1954


American (1919-1991)

Oil on linen

Bequest of Bill Bomar known as the Jewel Nail Bomar and William P. Bomar, Jr. Collection


Diwali at the OJAC!

Diwali at the OJAC!

Diwali, known as “the festival of lights”, is celebrated every year during autumn in the northern hemisphere. It is an official holiday in many countries around the world - celebrated by around 15 % of the Earth's population!!  This holiday spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.

As a symbol for this victory, millions of lights in many forms cover homes, neighborhoods, and city streets. The preparation and festivities can last up to five days and celebrates everything bright and beautiful. Families spend time together eating special foods and reveling in what is good in life. For many, Diwali is also a time for renewal. Some of the annual traditions include cleaning, and renovating homes as well as buying new clothes to signify hope and putting your best foot forward in the year to come.

At the OJAC, our Diwali celebrations have already begun. On Tuesday, this month's After School Drop-In featured a children's book about the traditional Diwali decoration called Rangoli by Anuradha Ananth. Students went home with their very own sand rangoli ornament.

Over 2,000 students, in surrounding area schools K-12, will be receiving a visit from one of our Art-to-Go Instructors this month as we teach about the Festival of Lights and guide them in creating their own decorations for Diwali. Home School families won't miss out either when they come to Home School Family Friday on the fourth Friday of this month. 

Last but not least, the OJAC will be hosting our own Diwali Family Festival on Saturday, October 21st. YOU are invited! All ages are welcome so bring the whole crew!

 Experience traditional foods, games with prizes, music, artwork, and much more!

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OJAC selected to receive loan from Art Bridges

OJAC selected to receive loan from Art Bridges

Arts patron and philanthropist Alice Walton recently announced the formation of Art Bridges, a 501(c)(3) foundation with the mission to share works of exceptional American art to a wider audience. The Old Jail Art Center (OJAC) is among a handful of institutions that have been selected to receive a loan from Art Bridges. Other institutions include Amarillo Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Blanton Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art, Tyler Museum of Art, and Yellowstone Art Museum. Each of these institutions are designing innovative programming to engage audiences with the loaned objects, as well as works in their collections, through Art Bridges support. The work on loan to the OJAC, Untitled (Subway Station), 1945, by Norman Wilfred Lewis, is on view now in the Nail Gallery. 


Norman Lewis .png


NORMAN WILFRED LEWIS, Untitled (Subway Station), 1945, oil and sand on canvas. On loan from Art Bridges.  LX.085

A native of New York City, Norman Lewis began his career during the 1930s as a social realist. He shifted from an overtly figural style, depicting bread lines, evictions, and police brutality, to non-objective abstraction in the 1950s, but remained active and consciously aware of social inequalities, particularly those faced by African Americans. Lewis was an important member of the Abstract Expressionism movement. His work is characterized by the duality of abstraction and representation, using both geometric and natural forms, in the depiction of both the city and natural world, and expressing both righteous anger and joyous celebration.

Image Credit: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Exhibition, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis. 

Image Credit: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Exhibition, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis. 



Anniversary and Acquisition

Anniversary and Acquisition

If you haven’t already heard, 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Griffin on the Texas frontier. For those of you celebrating this milestone, you’ll also want to make a special trip 15 miles south to the OJAC to view our most recent acquisition, Nocturnal (Ruins of Old Fort Griffin) by Charles Peter Bock.

This rare work depicts the ruins of Fort Griffin, located just north of Albany, Texas. In August and September of 1908, Bock, and fellow artist Frank Reaugh, went on a “sketching trip” from Dallas to West Texas traveling by covered wagon and this painting is a result of that excursion. The finished oil on canvas was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in December of the following year. Nocturnal (Ruins of Old Fort Griffin) depicts one of the structures at sunset or early dark—a personal favorite time of day for Bock and Reaugh.

This new OJAC acquisition is now on view in the Nail Gallery. 

-Amy Kelly, Registrar


Image Credit:

Nocturnal (Ruins of Old Fort Griffin), c. 1908


American (1872-1952)

Oil on canvas 

Museum purchase through funds provided by Shirley Caldwell in honor of Clifton Caldwell, her husband of 59 years






Recognizing Talent

Recognizing Talent

I enjoy looking at other museums’ (particularly Texas museums) publications to see what type of exhibitions and events they are presenting. I was pleasantly surprised to see in the Amon Carter Museum of America Art Program for August 2017 – January 2018 that an upcoming exhibition Commanding Space: Women Sculptors of Texas was featuring the work of three contemporary artists that have had exhibits at the OJAC.


Linda Ridgway participated in the OJAC’s Cell Series in 2015 and Kana Harada did so in 2013. Both solo exhibits, in our upper galleries of the historic and artistically challenging jail cells, were fantastic. We also purchased two drawings by Linda from another OJAC exhibition Drawn in Drawn Out of 2014 and a sculpture of Kana’s that was included in her installation. 


Another artist that is in the Amon Carter exhibit is Sherry Owens.  A large and elaborate work of hers was shown at the OJAC when she participated in our West Texas Triangle summer exhibition in 2010.


I’m glad to see that the Amon Carter is showing the work of these three talented artists along with two others—Celia Eberle and Sharon Kopriva. I know that the OJAC audiences enjoyed the works of those three and anticipate a larger audience will do so as well in Fort Worth. I look forward to visiting the Carter to see the exhibit.


-Pat Kelly

Director and Curator of Exhibitions


[image: Kana Harada’s installation Anything You Want, 2013 in the OJAC Cell Series.]

A Stradivarius on the Prairie?

A Stradivarius on the Prairie?

Berta Hart Nance (1883-1958), a charter member of the Poetry Society of Texas, wrote the poem "Cattle," which is read at the opening of each performance of the Fort Griffin Fandangle.

Growing up in Fort Griffin, Nance learned to play the violin at a young age. When she was in her early teens, her father ‘Dutch’ Nance, purchased her a better violin for $50 from a traveling theatre player named John Hervey, who had become ill while visiting the town and needed the money. Hervey related to the family that he had purchased the violin from a German immigrant down on his luck in Galveston.

Nance owned and played the violin for 60 years, and, after her death in 1958 her great nephew, Jack Reynolds, cared for it for a number of years before it came to the musem.

While readying the violin for display this summer, OJAC staff noted that the instrument is labeled as a Stradivarius from 1723. Though it has been retrofitted with modern parts, the body could be authentic. We are hopeful and excited to potentially have this information confirmed in the future!


-Molly Sauder


Summer Student Programs- That's a Wrap!

Summer Student Programs- That's a Wrap!

We just wrapped up a Summer of student day camps. July and August were extremely busy months for everyone in the Education department- from the interns up to the department director!

Over the years, our Summer Student Programs have become a reunion of sorts with many familiar smiling faces we may not see too often during the school year. Some students we saw for their last summer as they graduate out of the age range of our day-camps and some students began their summer tradition with us for the first time.

We made wind chimes and weavings, puppets and paintings, metal tooling and plastic bottle boats. We explored ancient aztec culture, contemporary Mexican culture, and concepts of recycling and creative re-use. We dove deep into the ocean for science and STEM connections through a variety of games and activities. Even character building lessons found their way into our discussions and crafts as we learned what it means to be resilient, work together, and try new things.

Our inspiration comes from many things either from the museum vault or prize winning children's books but our goal is always the same: to educate the children in our community and open their eyes to new things from our past and present that might aid them toward a brighter future. By sharing our enthusiasm for the beautiful artwork, culture, and amazing things our big and varied world has to offer we hope to instill a similar appreciation in our students and in all the people who are touched by the OJAC and our programs. 


-Molly Gore Merck

Education Coordinator

A Month of Teacher In-Service

A Month of Teacher In-Service

July 2017 was the 19th year of Summer Teacher In-Service at the OJAC. This season we enjoyed visiting classroom instructors from Abilene, Albany, Anson, Breckenridge, Cisco, Cherokee, Clyde, De Leon, Haskell, Hawley, Leuders Avoca, Merkel, Stamford and Wylie. 

Weekly Teacher Workshops are very interactive as instructors explore the OJAC collection through cross-curricular and TEKs aligned lesson plans and art activities. Teachers leave with freebies, classroom art supply sets, a full curriculum packet (printed and digital) with colored prints of collection objects, as well as their completed sample of each craft or activity. 

2017 Themes ranged from Hispanic Arts and Culture, local West Texas History, Global Printmaking traditions and Visual and Language Arts Connections for Early Learners. 

At  ¡Fiesta!: A Celebration of Hispanic and Latin Culture through the OJAC Collection, Spanish language and social studies teachers explored traditions, celebrations, artists and history of Hispanic and Latin Cultures through the lens of the museum collection. They created Incan Quipu, Spanish Colonial Straw Applique, Amate Bark Paper Paintings, Tres Reyes Wishing Shoes, Peruvian Bird Gourds, and learned the traditional Mexican children's game of La Vieja Ines

At Printmaking: A sampler of Cross-cultural traditions, visual and fine art teachers learned fun and budget-friendly ways for their students to explore ancient printmaking traditions from countries such as India, Mexico, China, Ghana, Japan and the Netherlands. They experimented with a variety of materials and techniques presented through the lens of Visual Art and Artifacts from the museum collection.

At The Art of Reading, teachers of PK-2nd grade students investigated connections between popular and classic children's books and the museum collection. Participants practiced instruction of visual thinking and language arts activities and enjoyed games and crafts corresponding to each book. 

Our final workshop was a Local History Tour, where social studies and history instructors enjoyed a guided bus tour of local historical sites, followed by instruction at the museum. Participants enjoyed a performance by a singing Cowboy Poet, as well as crafts connecting to frontier life and Native American Cultures in our region. 



Western Swing 2017

The 22nd Annual Western Swing Fundraiser was a big success! 

Thanks to all who came out for this fabulous exhibit opening and fundraiser benefitting OJAC Education Programs!

Each individual ticket sponsors 5 students for a year of school outreach through Art-To-Go.

Make plans to join us next June for this special event!

Family Festival Fun

Family Festival Fun

On Saturday, April 22nd, the OJAC hosted a Family Festival in celebration of Earth Day! Families of all shapes and sizes from the surrounding area made the trek to Albany to participate in arts, crafts, and activities that included important Earth Day topics. We created a cheerful spring mural out of our recycling, made bird feeders, and even got our hands a little dirty planting in an effort to learn about taking better care of our planet.

The truth is, after all the planning and preparation, Family Festivals are as much fun for the museum staff and volunteers as they are for those who attend. We love introducing local students and people of all ages to new cultures, art-forms, and social awareness topics in an exciting, hands-on way. Seeing our student's faces light up when they try or learn something new reminds why we're here and brings joy to even the most mundane tasks. In the weeks leading up to a Family Festival, flyers are sent out to all our participating Art-to-Go students from Region 14 and personal invitations are extended by our instructors in every classroom they visit. As a result, families come from miles around to experience the crafts, music, games, and refreshments inspired by a culture or topic represented in the museum collection.

We look forward to these quarterly opportunities to make fun and creative connections with visitors of all generations from our community. Bring the whole family and join us for our next Family Festival this Fall. 

- Molly Gore Merck

Education Coordinator



As a museum Director and Curator I often hear that my “minimalist” approach to presenting work is often in conflict with what many are accustomed to. My personal theory is that often too many works in a gallery or an entire museum can be overwhelming. Have you ever been to an all-you-can-eat restaurant with the expectation, accompanied by near giddiness, of having no restrictions on quantity or choice? Regardless of the quality of the offerings, I quickly discover that too many choices can lead to indecision resulting in merely sampling many items. By the time I discover what I truly like and where to focus my gluttony, I’m too full and exhausted to return to what I truly desire.

For me the “all-you-can-eat” mindset can apply to museum exhibitions. I want the viewer’s menu to be restricted, focused, and thoughtfully prepared so you have the time and energy to enjoy what is offered. Granted, not everything “on the menu” may be to your taste. But I am confident in the fact that there is always something somewhere in our museum that is sure to please and enlighten. The hope is that you can concentrate on works that appeal to your taste visually, and then discover what the works can offer intellectually. By confronting a work you didn’t initially like, you may discover something new about it or yourself…or, at the very least, you may determine specifically why you don’t “like” a work, which in turn provides a better understanding of what you do like.

Currently our small museum has 175 individual works of art on view along with 114 archival objects. If an individual spent just 30 seconds viewing each work it would take them 2.4 hours to see everything in the museum. This does not seem to be a minimal amount of work on view in proportion to our gallery spaces. By the way…30 seconds is twice the amount of time many studies find that people spend at a work of art!

Patrick Kelly

Newly Accessioned Works by Artist Heyd Fontenot

Newly Accessioned Works by Artist Heyd Fontenot

The OJAC recently accessioned six works on paper by Austin artist Heyd Fontenot (b. 1964). The suite of drawings were received as a gift from Stanley W. Light of Dallas through the suggestion of the artist. Fontenot's creative vision has found expression in many different artistic roles including designer, art director, producer, filmmaker and painter. Among his many clients are theater companies, retail businesses and media production companies. In the 1990s, Fontenot produced a significant body of work as an experimental filmmaker. This period was crucial to his growth as an artist and continues to inform his work as a painter. Fontenot was born in 1964 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He currently lives and works in Austin, Texas.

As described by the artist, “The paintings and drawings are essentially portraits, despite the frequent inclusion of embellishment or exaggeration. Using my friends as models allows me to meditate on their individual qualities and uniqueness. Academic-style “accuracy” is not the goal. I seek to achieve a particular intimacy. My focus is on the unique qualities of the individual, which are not limited to physical information.”


Talking Back- Student Art Show 2017

Talking Back- Student Art Show 2017

Since 2008, the museum has celebrated Youth Art Month by hosting a Student Art Competition for ages 13-18. This competition, named “Talking Back” provides local teens the opportunity to both explore the OJAC collection of art and artifacts and create their own work in response.

In January, OJAC educators visit Junior and Senior High Schools throughout Region 14 and present five artists from the museum collection. Students explore the work of each artist, focusing on the process as well as themes/ideas behind each piece.  Next, they are challenged to “Talk Back” with a response piece which communicates with the original.

The OJAC Student Art show is also unique as it is both created AND juried by teens. Each Spring, the museum’s Junior Docent Corps jury and curate the Show, as well as organize for prizes and an Exhibit Opening Reception. With help from Education Department Staff, the Junior Docents consider various criteria as they critique each piece. This is one of the most important experiences in our Junior Docent program, as the students gain valuable Visual and Critical Thinking Skills! They choose one winner for each response category and present certificates and prizes that they have secured from local businesses.

Needless to say, March is a very special time at the OJAC. Our Stasney Center for Education is a popular place for families and the museum staff is delighted to view the collection through the eyes of our youngest visitors

Take a sneak peak at the five collection pieces (below) that were chosen for the program this Spring, then visit us during the month of March to view the show! 

This month in Art-To-Go..

This month in Art-To-Go..

Art-To-Go is the museum's free, school outreach program- available to any campus K-12 within an hours-drive of the OJAC. Museum Educators visit each participating campus once a month and present a different social or cultural awareness issue through the lens of the museum collection. 

At each 45 minute session, students enjoy books and videos, explore artifacts from the museum, and participate in a short studio activity. 

During the month of February, students throughout Region 14 explored African Heritage- investigating various cultures in Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast. 

PK-1st Grade students listened to Anansi the Spider, a children's folktale from Ghana. After viewing the Adinkra symbols of the Ashanti people they filled Anansi's web with patterns and symbols of their own.

2-3rd Graders created stamps of Adinkra symbols and printed their own Achi Gameboards (a children's game from Ghana- similar to tic-tac-toe). They had a blast competing against one another using these personalized game-boards!

4-5th Grade investigated the Korhogo Cloth of the Senufo culture in the Ivory Coast. They filled a Ndebele ('nature' spirit') with Senufo symbolism, then added waves of energy with color. 

6-8th Grades students tried their hand at Mudcloth Designs from Mali. They enjoyed the texture of the "mudpaint" and the geometric patterns.

9-12th Grade explored Gris Gris Bags from Nigeria. In addition to decorating their bags with Nigerian symbols, beads and feathers, they filled this 'good-luck charm' with their favorite words of encouragement. 


Evaline Sellors

The Robert E. Nail, Jr. Archives current exhibit complements the Texas Moderns art exhibition with a display focusing on the life and work of artist Evaline Sellors.

Evaline Clarke Sellors was born August 30, 1903 in Fort Worth, Texas. As a child she was enrolled in private art classes, and later attended prep school at Texas Woman's College Academy. Following a couple of years spent abroad, Sellors returned to Fort Worth and with the help of artists Blanche McVeigh and Sallie Gillespie opened the Texas School of Fine Arts in 1932. Later renamed the Fort Worth School of Fine Arts, the school was closed in 1941 with the advent of WWII.

During the war, Sellors worked at North American Aviations as an instructor in the mockup department, which created plaster models that became casts used to manufacture plane parts for the company. After the war, Sellors continued to teach, working as an art instructor through 1980.

While teaching, Sellors continued to exhibit her work, and maintained a studio in her garage until 1993 when failing eyesight forced her to retire. Sellors died May 17, 1995 at the age of 91

OJAC Dedicates New Archives Addition

OJAC Dedicates New Archives Addition

There was a great crowd at the OJAC on Sunday afternoon for the official dedication and grand opening of the new archives addition! A short ceremony was held at 1:30 pm to honor Clifton and Shirley Caldwell for their contribution of the new wing, and afterwards the public was invited to tour the new space.

The addition includes exhibition space that features the re-installation of the Sallie Reynolds Matthews Collection, along with cases which will highlight other materials and documents from the Robert E. Nail, Jr. Archives' collections. New office space, as well as an expanded reading room provide plenty of working space for both researchers and staff. Attendees were also allowed to view the new archives storage room, which will generally not be open to the public.

OJAC Welcomes New Development and Marketing Coordinator

OJAC Welcomes New Development and Marketing Coordinator

The Old Jail Art Center would like to welcome Kenna Hogan to the team! 

Kenna will serve as Development and Marketing Coordinator at the OJAC. 

Kenna comes to us with local museum, and international experience - with work for the Buffalo Gap Historic Village and the Durham Cathedral and Castle World Heritage Site. 

She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Heritage and Cultural Tourism from McMurry University and a Master of Arts in International Cultural Heritage Management from the University of Durham in the United Kingdom. 

She and her family are from the Abilene area.