Jenny had served on the Ackland’s Academic Advisory Committee since 2015, and took on the role of Chair in 2018. Her wise counsel, joyous enthusiasm, and intellectual depth drove many discussions, especially — but by no means exclusively — on questions to do with the presentation of American Indian creativity here at the Museum.
Most recently, she consulted with Dana Cowen, Sheldon Peck Curator for European and American Art before 1950, on the 2019 exhibition Way Out West: Celebrating the Gift of the Hugh A. McAllister Jr. Collection. “From the moment I met Jenny,” Cowen said, “I was struck by her kindness and generosity, not only from an academic perspective, but also on a personal level. In preparation for Way Out West, Jenny discussed with me some of the ideas I had for incorporating our American Indian holdings into the show. She also encouraged us to add to the collection and pointed me towards some of the foremost Native artists active today, several of whom are now represented in our permanent collection thanks to Jenny’s guidance. It was a pleasure collaborating with her.”
Moreover, Jenny regularly taught with works of art in the collection, many times arranging a special display in Ackland Upstairs, our study gallery. Frequently she included works by artists from the San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico, such as this one, and involved her students in researching those works. Elizabeth Manekin, Head of University Programs and Academic Projects, worked closely with Jenny and her students: “Her enthusiasm for visual and material culture was contagious, and she always pushed her students to think critically about how American Indian art has been made, collected, and categorized. Jenny was also hilarious and a delight to work with.”
Jenny would take her students to visit and discuss the Ackland’s public sculpture by Allan C. Houser, Next Generation II by Allan C. Houser (Chiricahua Apache), installed in front of the UNC Hospitals. “It was typical of her spirit and thoughtfulness,” said Carolyn Allmendinger, Director of Education and Interpretation, “that during a phone conversation in June, Jenny would take the trouble to tell me that she had a great view of Houser’s sculpture from her window in the hospital. She said it was keeping her company just as she had made sure to keep it company for so many years.”
“I agree with Dana, Elizabeth, Carolyn and so many others, said Katie Ziglar, Director of the Ackland, “that Jenny will be missed very much. I had the pleasure of meeting her soon after I arrived in Chapel Hill, and I was immediately struck by how Jenny stood out even in a large group for her special warmth and friendliness and for her indomitable enthusiasm for teaching with the holdings of the Ackland. Her eyes shone as she talked about her work with us as much as they shone when she told me about her young son, Steven. The Ackland is happy to pass on the family’s wishes that those who wish to pay tribute to her might contribute a trust fund being set up for Steven or purchase her book. At the Ackland, full of regret at all the ambitious projects we will now not be able to realize with her participation, we will honor her memory and example by committing to aiming ever higher in our engagement with faculty and with the art of Indigenous peoples.”
Tse-Ye-Muh (Romando Vigil), Native American, San Ildefonso Pueblo, 1902-1978, Indian Bird Symbol, c. 1930, pen and ink and watercolor, 12 3/8 × 18 5/8 in. (31.4 × 47.3 cm). Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2126
Site view of Allan C. Houser, Chiricahua Apache, 1914-1994, Next Generation II, 1989, bronze, 61 x 92 x 74 in. Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gift of Hugh A. McAllister Jr., MD ’66 in honor of his father Hugh A. McAllister Sr., MD ’35 2012.13. Photo courtesy of the Medical Foundation.