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Thomas Brent Smith Named Director of OU’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

Thomas Brent Smith Named Director of OU’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

August 16, 2021

The University of Oklahoma announced today the appointment of Thomas Brent Smith as Wylodean and Bill Saxon Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, pending OU Board of Regents’ approval.

An OU alumnus who has built a distinguished career in museum leadership, Smith will return to his alma mater on Nov. 1 from the Denver Art Museum, where he serves as director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art. In this role, he has led the Petrie Institute to unprecedented growth and national stature by spearheading a $7 million endowment campaign and transforming the institute’s holdings by acquiring multiple important collections, including one of the most valuable gifts of art in the museum’s history.    

“We are thrilled to welcome Thomas Smith back to the University of Oklahoma,” said Senior Vice President and Provost for the Norman Campus André-Denis Wright. “He is a creative, competent and visionary museum leader whose expertise building long-term financial structures and developing community partnerships will be an asset to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and our university as a whole.”

Over the course of his 13 years at the Denver Art Museum, Smith became known as a curator of innovative exhibitions with wide community appeal and positive critical response. He initiated an ambitious track of exhibitions, publications and programs, including The American West in Bronze:1850-1925 with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Western: An Epic in Art and Film with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He also developed successful project partnerships resulting in support from private and corporate donors and major granting institutions, including the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Henry Luce Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art and Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

“I am delighted to return to the University of Oklahoma at this important time in its history, as both the university and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art have had a powerful influence on my life and career,” said Smith. “It is an honor to serve as director of a museum that I consider to be the best among public universities. I am looking forward to working with the Board of Visitors and the university leadership, as well as the museum’s committed and talented staff, to continue to raise the profile and impact of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, both on campus and beyond.”

Smith earned a bachelor of fine arts from Oklahoma Christian University and a master of arts in art history from the University of Oklahoma. Prior to joining the Denver Art Museum, he was curator of Art of the American West at the Tucson Museum of Art. He has received numerous awards for his scholarship, including the Colorado Book Award and the Western Heritage Award, both for Once Upon a Time … The Western: A New Frontier in Art and Film. His most recent publication, The American West in Art, won another Colorado Book Award in 2021.

Smith has been a fellow of The Getty Leadership Institute, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver and currently serves as president of the Museums West Consortium.

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit

About the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is located in the OU Arts District at 555 Elm Ave., on the OU Norman campus. Admission to the museum is complimentary to all visitors. The museum is closed on Mondays. Information and accommodations are available by calling (405) 325-4938 or by visiting