College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Retired professor helped students find artistic voice

Jere Allen, professor emeritus of art, inspired by example during his 25 years at UM.

“Jere, as superbly talented as he is, is one of the most approachable and sharing people I know,” said David Lambert, a former student and acclaimed painter. “There’s no pretense on his part.”

Allen said his role was to guide students through fundamentals and to encourage them to solve creative problems through exploring what they knew.

“Each had the potential to influence others through discussions about the avenues taken during their personal experiments,” he said. “My hope was that they developed their own voice. I felt that I had to set an example as a working professional artist. Therefore, the research time that the university afforded me was advantageous for both my students and me.”

After receiving a B.F.A. from Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., and an M.F.A. from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Allen joined the UM faculty in 1975. He is in Who’s Who in American Arts, participated in a Group Studies Fulbright Grant in Costa Rica, and received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Allen paints primarily in oil, using dramatic, electric colors and most often creating figures against backgrounds of black or red. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited in 35 states including exhibitions in the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans. Allen’s work is in the permanent collection of the Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, Ore., City of Hameln, Germany, Huntsville Museum of Alabama, and Robert I. Kahn Gallery of the Temple Emanu El in Houston, Texas.

Allen delighted in his students’ development as artists.

“My joy came when any of the students discovered that they had created a voice all by themselves,” he said. “Often, visiting artists asked about managing the class when the students were all working on different problems. Actually, they were working on the most important — the art.”

Lambert continues to feel Allen’s influence.

“While my painting style shares little with Jere’s, I have still stored in my mind his sense of spontaneity and lushness of his brushwork,” Lambert said. “It’s become part of my subconscious artistic vocabulary that I recognize as important. It doesn’t necessarily show up visually in my paintings, but I know it’s there. I believe you can learn certain traits, such as confidence and conviction in the art you make, by watching those who have those traits.”

Ginny Chavis, associate professor of art, praises Allen for his involvement with current students.

“Jere has not only made great contributions to the art world, but was also a most thoughtful member of the art department,” Chavis said. “He continues to meet with students even in his retirement.”

Allen is thankful for his time at UM because of the friendships.

“As a faculty member, I was privileged to know people in many departments,” he said. “My dear friend Velon Minshew, professor and chair of geology and director of the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute, and I shared the notion of creativity. He was a scientist and I was an artist, but we both realized the importance of invention. Erwin Neumaier in political science was a great friend and always seemed to give me words that helped verbalize my visions.

“Ron Dale, the ceramics teacher, and I were closest friends and colleagues. He introduced me to new ideas as well as many new artists who became part of my life. He broadened my perspective on many aspects of art. I had great encouragement from Margaret Gorove, professor and chair of art, whom I referred to as ‘The Big Boss.’ My job at the university was a luxury.”

Allen retired from UM in 2000. Today, he is still painting and is represented by the Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans.

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