on a bean-shaped leather couch in the back room of the R. Roberts
Jacksonville’s historic Avondale, gallery owner Jennifer Jones explained
interpretation of artist Mackenzie Thorpe’s painting “The Road of Love
Long One,” hanging on a nearby wall.
features a beautiful heart being pulled by the every child through what
could be perceived as a barren life journey, but also could be perceived
peace and solidarity,” said Jones, who graduated from the University of
Florida in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in art history and literature.
moon represents the hope and grace shining down on us as we carry
love through our journey ‑ and it’s not heavy; it’s very large but very
because we are so loved.”
words could describe Jones’ own life journey, which has taken the
34-year-old entrepreneur from being a naïve college student unsure of
future path to a confident, passionate business owner, mother, wife,
philanthropist and a recipient of UNF’s 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award.
‘90s as a UNF student “on the five-year plan,” Jones contemplated
degree in business, then education, but “kept hitting a wall of some
had trouble finding her passion. It wasn’t until she enrolled in a
Survey class taught by UNF Art and Design Professor Debra Murphy that
finally was inspired to follow her love of art history and create a
was completely captivated by Dr. Murphy, who was clearly passionate
she was teaching us,” Jones said. “Her passion is sharing art history
students, including all of its periods and phases and renaissances and
and I really sensed that she could talk about the Byzantine period 500
and never tire of it. It fed her soul – and I realized that I could see
in her shoes.”
the path, Jones stumbled upon R. Roberts Gallery on St. Johns Avenue.
Richard Roberts, the gallery’s former owner, when she was on her way to
friends at a jazz club across the street from the gallery. Roberts
salesperson and she, with a year left until graduation, needed
said the match was “like peanut butter and jelly.”
at the gallery from 1998 to 2000, took an 18-month hiatus to move to
Raleigh, N.C., to work for the fifth-grossing gallery in the country, a
valuable experience she described as “art consultant boot camp.” When
Roberts offered her the position
of director of the gallery (and dangled a carrot that she’d transition
owner/president), she returned and began grooming herself for ownership
the next seven years.
two-plus years into ownership, Jones is grateful the gallery has
economic recession at a time when 22 other local galleries have gone
Jones attributes this success to a core group of dedicated clients who
to buy artwork and to the gallery’s diverse calendar exhibiting a
of artwork from world-renowned masters like Picasso, Renoir and Manet to
international artists like Mackenzie Thorpe and Peter Max, to well-known
emerging artists like Overstreet Ducasse, Franklin Matthews and Tony
really lovely to be able to bring in clients who are interested in
Renoir and expose them to someone like Overstreet Ducasse, an amazing
artist whose work is very intellectual, creative and politically
said. “I love it.”
big part of what Jones does now is exercise her “givers’ gain”
giving back to the community by selling artwork to raise funds for
local non-profits groups – and also for UNF.
have an opportunity to give a percentage of proceeds, we do,” Jones
“It’s not only an opportunity for us to give back and enhance the
but it’s also a wonderful way for us to meet wonderful people, and
it’s an important way for us to have our true selves be known to a
a member of the Thomas G. Carpenter Library’s Dean’s Leadership Council,
helped pioneer UNF’s “Art in the Library” project, securing donations of
Jacksonville artists’ work to permanently display on the Library’s
helped the Library realize the installation of more than 30 works of
recently gifted to the Library by the family of the late Dr.
R. Ibach Jr., known for his love of
art and jazz,” said Dr. Shirley Hallblade, director of the Carpenter
“The Library’s third floor is now enhanced by this gallery of wonderful
that students will forever enjoy and learn from.”
primarily through her work on the council and her fund-raising efforts
Jones received the Outstanding Alumni Award in February.
the things I learned at UNF in my literature, art history, business and
education courses prepared me for where I am today, so it’s really great
UNF continues to support me today,” Jones said. “I’m so humbled and
proud to be
among people who really care about UNF and strive to make a difference.
feels good to be honored doing something you love.”