Work of Art

Written by Lance Evans in the January 2014 Issue

Aaron giving a tourThere are three things near to Aaron Jones’ heart: family, art and Oklahoma. No matter how far his hobby-turned-career has taken him, a small part of Aaron will always belong to his home state.

Jones is one of the best at what he does. And he has celebrity clients who will back that claim. He’s the go-to person for tours and art education at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The world-class facility’s stunning architecture and prized art collection attract enthusiasts from across the nation, including notable celebrities.

Sure, Jones would not likely give a detailed list of the many celebrities who have walked through the gallery, but it was a question that begged to be asked. Before easing into his answer with a soft laugh, Jones made it clear that he doesn’t like to tour and tell—not even for his mother. While Jones may not be spilling any secrets, any of the celebrities who have attended tours curated by him give rave reviews of Crystal Bridges Art Museum.

Aaron with Harrison FordJones’ position at Crystal Bridges is a job he’s been preparing for his entire life. “I’ve always loved drawing,” says Jones. “I’ve been enamored with creating art from a young age.” Jones grew up in what he calls a “musical family.” Naturally, he believed that the talents of his family would ultimately lead him to pursue a career in music, but he eventually found other artistic outlets to convey his passions. “I never could gravitate towards music,” he says. “I don’t sing very well. I don’t play very well. But with drawing, it seemed to come very easily to me.”

Jones has always been drawn to works that help evoke emotional responses. As he vividly describes his favorite comic books that he loved reading as a child, his love of classic horror films and Godzilla, you truly get the sense that this is a man who is not only driven by his passions, but one who is also continuing to thrive from them. Jones has simply done what so many people hope to do in life—find a dream and live it.

Aaron with kidsAfter graduating from Edmond Memorial in 1986, Jones decided to take the chance and really chase his growing desires. Jones attributes a vast amount of his interest in art to the consistent encouragement of his teachers at Edmond Memorial. One teacher in particular had a major impact on Jones. Oklahoma artist George Oswald went outside the normal school curriculum to truly engage with his students. It was a teaching style that stuck with Jones. “Oswald wasn’t a teacher—he was an artist,” says Jones. “I think that’s what really connected me. His style was very different from what was in our textbooks.” After graduating from Edmond Memorial, Jones attended Oklahoma Baptist University and pursued a degree in art, continuing his studies until he ultimately obtained his master’s degree.

Today Jones is educating people about his first love at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “You don’t often hear the title of interpretation manager at a fine art museum,” says Jones. “It’s an individual who manages content.” Jones is a hybrid—a cross between an art curator and educator.

Jones’ goal is to also make sure that the information offered by the museum is not only contextual, but interesting to attendees as well. He uses the feedback provided by gallery attendees to heighten the experience for future guests. He researches stories pertaining to the art featured in his gallery and shares them with guests to truly find the common denominator that tends to connect individuals with works of art. While a painting might evoke a sense of appreciation from gallery visitors, it’s the story behind the art that will truly spark an “aha moment.” That’s what Jones does best—he’s an art aha-er.

“I love nothing more than being in the galleries, giving tours and learning something,” says Jones. “That’s a priceless opportunity.”

For more information on Crystal Bridges, visit crystalbridges.org.

Crystal Bridges

2 Comments

Cindy Haun Says:
January 3rd, 2014 at 2:56 pm
Great article.....!! Thanks for being a positive influence as an art teacher at OBU and for inspiring my son to pursue his passion in art. We wish you the greatest of God's blessings.

Louise Tucker Jones Says:
January 10th, 2014 at 10:49 am
Thanks, Lance, for this wonderful article on my son, Aaron. Of course, I think he is exceptional, but I have seen him in action at Crystal Bridges. Anytime he takes me on a tour of the galleries, people start gathering around when they hear him explaining the story behind the art. I'm so proud of him and his family.
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