Walk up the stairs of Trevor Arnett Hall, on the Clark Atlanta University (CAU) campus, and you are treated to an overwhelming visual experience. As you emerge at the top of the stairs the Art of the Negro murals, painted by Hale Aspacio Woodruff(1900 – 1980) slowly come into view. These large murals, consisting of six panels, can only be described as magical.
The Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery is a little known gem in Atlanta. Tucked away in the top floor of a campus building it is often overlooked as visitors, tourists and students alike head to the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on the Morehouse campus. It is worth setting aside an hour to stop at the CAU art gallery.
The CAU Art Gallery has a permanent collection that falls into three major categories: Contemporary America, African American and African art. By far the largest and most historically significant is the African American collection which is made up of over 950 works of art. The three collections include paintings, murals, sculpture, works on paper and ethnographical artifacts acquired through purchases and donations. Significant works in the collection include Hentry O. Tanner’s Disciples Healing the Sick, Snow Morning by Romare Bearden, Brownstones by Jacob Lawrence, and the Art of the Negro Mural series by Hale Woodruff.
According to the University website CAU’s tradition in fostering the arts began in 1942 when exhibition opportunities for artists of color were limited due to segregation. Then Atlanta University, under the direction of Hale Woodruff inaugurated the annual “Exhibition of Paintings, Prints, and Sculpture by Negro Artists of America” to provide black artists a national forum to exhibit their work. Over three decades the juried exhibitions presented to the American public over 900 artists from across the country. Each year an average of 12 pieces were purchased for the University collections. In this way, works by artists who were virtually unknown to the mainstream art world, but later hailed as masters entered the University collection.
This unique gallery has art displayed throughout several rooms. The exhibits change from time-to-time, however the one thing that never changes are the Art of the Negro murals which are always on display.
The general public is welcome to visit to the CAU Art gallery but they need to call ahead to find out what hours the gallery is open. Their hours change throughout the year. A “what you can give” donation is requested upon entrance into the gallery. The contact information is as follows:
Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery
Trevor Arnett Hall, 2nd Level, 223 James P. Brawley Drive, SW Atlanta, GA 30314
(404) 880-6102/6644 – (404) 880-6968 (fax) – Email: [email protected]
Trevor Arnett Hall is located at the end of the CAU pedestrian walkway and to the right. A banner with “Art Gallery” written on it flies in front of the building.
Clark Atlanta University is easily accessible by car to downtown Atlanta from either I20 West or Northside Drive. Visitor parking is available in the parking deck at the corner of Fair and Mildred Streets. In 2011 the maximum price for a full day parking was $5.