NCCU Art Museum Receives Major Gift

September 3, 2008 (DURHAM, NC) — Mary Jo and Dick Bell of Atlantic Beach, NC, recently donated 14 significant works of art by the late A.B. Jackson to the North Carolina Central University Art Museum in Durham, NC.

The Jackson collection, part of the Bells’ personal art collection, is valued at $194,000, according to a professional appraisal by Joseph Rowand of Somerhill Gallery in Durham.

“The Bells’ gift is the largest gift in the history of the museum, and we are absolutely delighted” said the art museum’s director, Kenneth Rodgers. “It fills a void in our collection from the region, so we are ecstatic. And we will make it available on a number of occasions to benefit our students and many beyond. We hope the Triangle community will come to see it and appreciate it as much as we do.”

The Bells’ donation includes watercolors, pastels, charcoal and acrylic works by the renowned artist whose pieces hang in many museums, universities and other institutions. Former President Lyndon B. Johnson also owned Jackson’s work.

The son of an Irish mother and black father, Jackson earned two art degrees from Yale in the mid-1950s. He taught art for 10 years at Norfolk State before joining Old Dominion as a full professor and the school’s first black faculty member. He died in 1981 at the age of 55.

The Bells decided to donate their collection to NCCU’s Art Museum because director Rodgers expressed interest in a show of Jackson’s work in the past.

The breadth of the Bells’ donation was intentional. “We wanted to give the University a representative collection so that students could look at the work and understand what it took to be so adept in so many media,” Dick Bell said.

Mary Jo and Dick Bell have been avid collectors of North Carolina art since Mary Jo opened the former Garden Gallery in the Water Garden complex on Highway 70 in Raleigh in the Sixties. Determined to support and advocate North Carolina artists, their personal collection represents most of the state’s finest artists.

The Bells lived and worked at Water Garden from 1955 until last year. A master landscape architect, Dick Bell created Water Garden as Raleigh’s first mixed-use development. It included their residence, his offices, Garden Gallery and other leased office spaces, and represented Bell’s naturalistic approach to landscape architecture.

The Bells sold Water Garden last year and moved to their condominium in Atlantic Beach. With the gallery closed and their living environment downsized, they’ve looked for ways to share their extensive art collection. The NCCU donation is part of that effort.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to collect so much art,” Dick Bell said. “Now we’re happy to disseminate it — to share the work of such great artists as A.B. Jackson.”

For more information on the NCCU Art Museum, go to


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