Museums + Collections

Art History
is our Legacy.

With over a century of innovation and scholarship in the visual arts, the legacy of art history at the AUC continues with you. Numbering over 40,000 objects across five museums, collections and archives, our vast holdings begin in the 17th century and connect you to legendary artists, historians, educators, scholars and innovators.

By the mid-1930s, the Atlanta University Center had become the premier site in the Southeast for art instruction for African Americans.”
~ Dr. Floyd A. Coleman, from Hale Woodruff, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and the Academy

Pioneering A New Era.

Artist-Educators Hale Woodruff and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet pioneered a new era of art education at the AUC, starting at Atlanta University (1931) and Spelman College (1934). Establishing the first art departments at HBCUs, the AUC became a national model for African American art education and practice. Subsequent initiatives such as the Atlanta Art Annuals and the Coordinated Art Program established a legacy of artistic innovation and excellence.

Experience Our History.

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  • 1900

    Atlanta University Professor W.E.B. DuBois employed demographic research and photography to disrupt racist thoughts about African Americans at the 1900 Paris Exposition, where he organized the exhibition, A Small Nation of People, with commissioned portraits by Thomas A. Askew of Georgia.

  • 1931

    Artists Hale Woodruff and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet established the first art departments at the Atlanta University Center

  • 1942

    Hale Woodruff instituted the Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists in America, an annual juried competition and national forum for black artists

  • 1970

    The Atlanta University Annual (formerly the Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists in America) concluded and resulted a significant collection of twentieth-century African American art at Clark Atlanta University

  • 1978

    The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel was dedicated

  • 1983

    Donald Stewart, the sixth president of Spelman College, raised funds to purchase several contemporary works by Black women artists and positioned the College as an institution where objects by and about women of the African Diaspora were at the center

  • 1996

    Spelman College Museum of Fine Art was established

  • 2011

    Spelman College MFA 15 x 15 Acquisitions Initiative, an initiative to purchase fifteen important works of art in celebration of its 15th anniversary.

  • 2015

    Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries changes its name to Clark Atlanta University Art Museum

  • 2019

    The Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective is launched. The first and only undergraduate program in the nation designed to educate the next generation of African American arts professionals.

  • 1959

    Atlanta University Exhibition Gallery receives 81 pieces of contemporary American art from Catherine Hughes Waddell

  • 1960

    The Coordinated Art Program – AUC wide interdisciplinary instruction of visual arts, art history, art education, humanities, and design. The notoriety of the program attracted nationally acclaimed artists and scholars that expanded the reach, offering fine art exhibitions and
    lectures.

1900

Atlanta University Professor W.E.B. DuBois employed demographic research and photography to disrupt racist thoughts about African Americans at the 1900 Paris Exposition, where he organized the exhibition, A Small Nation of People with commissioned portraits by Thomas A. Askew of Georgia.

Photo: Four African-American women seated on steps of Atlanta University, late 1890’s. Image taken from A Small Nation of People: W.E.B Du Bois & African-American Portraits of Progress. Published by The Library of Congress with essays by David Levering Lewis and Deborah Willis (2003). ©The Library of Congress
1931

Artists Hale Woodruff and Nancy Elizabeth Prophet established the first art departments at the Atlanta University Center.

Photo: Hale Woodruff, artist and teacher, Harmon Foundation - National Archives and Records Administration
1942

Hale Woodruff instituted the Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists in America, an annual juried competition and natural forum for black artists.

Photo: Photo compliments of Clark Atlanta University Art Museum website. Photo source unknown.
1960

The Coordinated Art Program – AUC wide interdisciplinary instruction of visual arts, art history, art education, humanities, and design. The notoriety of the program attracted nationally acclaimed artists and scholars that expanded the reach, offering fine art exhibitions and
lectures.

Photo: Opening, 16th Annual Art Exhibition (1957). Atlanta University photographs, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library
1970

The Atlanta University Annual (formerly the Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculpture, and Prints by Negro Artists in America) concluded and resulted in a significant collection of twentieth-century African American art at Clark Atlanta University.

1978

The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel was dedicated.

Photo: Pete Lawton
1983

Donald Stewart, the sixth president of Spelman College, raised funds to purchase several contemporary works by Black women artists and positioned the College as an institution where objects by and about women of the African Diaspora were at the center.

Photo: College Board Review, Winter 1986–87 issue
1996

Spelman College Museum of Fine Art was established.

Photo: Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Ed.D., viewing Elizabeth Catlett Lovey Twice (1976) and Two Generations (1979) Rediscovery: Works from the Spelman College Collection, 1996
2011

Spelman College MFA 15 x15 Acquisitions Initiative, an initiative to purchase fifteen important works of art in celebration of its 15th anniversary.

Photo: Installation view of “Showcase & Tell: Treasures from the Spelman College Permanent Collection” (January 29 – May 16, 2009)
2015

Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries changes its name to Clark Atlanta University Art Museum.

Photo: Photos by Jonathan Phillips. Willis Cooks (left) looks at one of the 125 pieces of art on display at the Clark Atlanta University Art Gallery on Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2019

The Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective is launched. The first and only undergraduate program in the nation designed to educate the next generation of African American arts professionals.

Photo: Gediyon Kifle

Study Across Time.

Whether you’re surrounded by Hale Woodruff’s seminal mural, Art of the Negro (1950-1951), illustrating the global narrative on the art and cultural history of Africans in the Americas, or the life and legacy of Selma Burke, the Harlem Renaissance sculptor whose 1944 relief of President Franklin D. Roosevelt inspired the US dime, we have the resources to inspire you. Your scholarship starts here.

Our Resources.

Photo: Pete Lawton
Photo: Casey Giessen
Photo: Pete Lawton
CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY

Clark Atlanta University Art Museum

By the culmination of the Atlanta University Annuals in 1970, a significant collection of twentieth-century African American art had been amassed. Now numbering over 1,220 objects, highlights include works by Thornton Dial, Mildred Thompson, Sam Gilliam, and Radcliffe Bailey.

The Collection

MOREHOUSE COLLEGE

Morehouse College

Martin Luther King Jr., Collection, International Chapel + Hall of Honor
The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection represents much of Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and work encompassing approximately 10,000 items  spanning from 1944 to 1968. The King Chapel building and plaza honor the memory and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King and Dr. Howard Thurman, Morehouse’s best-known interfaith theologian.The Hall of Honor includes more than 150 oil portraits of global leaders of the international civil and human rights movement.

SPELMAN COLLEGE

Spelman Museum of Fine Art

Established in 1996, the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is the only museum in the nation dedicated to emphasizing art by women of the African Diaspora, including Deborah Roberts, Betye Saar, and Faith Ringgold.

The Collections

  • Hale Woodruff Collection
  • Mabel Murphy Smyth-Haith Collection
  • Black Women Artists Collection
  • Selma Burke Collection
  • Beverly Buchanan Collection
  • Gale and William Simmons Promised Gift of African Ceramics
  • Google Arts & Culture
SPELMAN COLLEGE INNOVATION LAB

The Spelman Innovation Lab

As a place to build 3D models and embark on exploratory play, the Spelman Innovation Lab serves as a center for creativity at the intersections of science, art, engineering, and technology. Through an open makerspace intimately tied to the curriculum, the lab teaches new ways of thinking critically, creative problem-solving, and reimagining the role of artists, art historians and curators in an unpredictable world.

THE SPELMAN ARCHIVES

The Spelman Archives

Documented since its founding in 1881, the rich, historical legacy of Spelman College awaits you in the many unique publications, photographs and records of the Spelman Archives. Highlights chronicle the lives of pioneering feminist scholars, intellectuals and artists such as Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara and Selma Burke, as well as critical moments in history including the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

AUC WOODRUFF LIBRARY + ARCHIVES

AUC Woodruff Library, Archives Research Center and Permanent Collection

Erected in 1982, the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library is the epicenter of the AUC and supports the teaching, learning and research missions of the four institutions.The Archives Research Center, noted for its extensive holdings of materials related to the African American experience with over 8,000 linear feet of materials and over 105 unique collections. The Robert W. Woodruff Library Permanent Art Collection represents a broad spectrum of disciplines, including sculpture, paintings, drawings, and photography. Works are created and loaned by artists from across the country.

Get a glimpse of your art future.
Find your place in The AUC Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective by visiting all of our museums, resources and collections today.
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