Hale Woodruff and the Buildings of the Atlanta University Center

The Spelman College Collection includes a series of Hale Woodruff's linocuts from the 1930s depicting the then-recently constructed buildings on the campuses of Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the surrounding community.

By Spelman College Museum of Fine Art

Hale Woodruff, "Gate to the Campus" 1935 (detail)

Hale Woodruff at Atlanta University (1942) by Arthur RothsteinSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

Woodruff Arrives in Atlanta

In 1931, Atlanta University president Dr. John Hope invited artist Hale Woodruff to create an art department that would serve the five Historically Black Colleges and Universities comprising the Atlanta University Center (AUC). 

A visionary artist and art educator who engaged his students in the social issues affecting their surrounding community, Woodruff’s efforts led, in large part, to the Atlanta University Center becoming the premiere site for art instruction for African Americans in the Southeast by the mid-1930s.

Library (1935) by Hale WoodruffSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

The Atlanta University Woodcuts

In 1933, Woodruff began making a series of woodcut and linoleum cut prints depicting the recently constructed buildings on the campuses of Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, and the surrounding community.

In Hale Woodruff in Atlanta: Art, Academics, Activism and Africa, artist and art historian Amalia K. Amaki explains: "Woodruff also gained distinction for creating stark, graphic portrayals of Southern life in black-and-white linoleum prints. Also referred to as linocuts, the printmaking process creates a relief print similar to a woodcut."

Stone Hall, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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President's Residence, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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 In addition to these campus buildings, Southern genre scenes and urban landscapes informed and influenced Woodruff’s work.

Gate to the Campus (1935) by Hale WoodruffSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

Gate to the Campus

The original main entrance to Spelman College was located by Sisters Chapel between Chadwick Home, which was removed in 1987, and Tapley Hall. Established in the 1920s, the gate to this entrance consisted of brick piers and metal fencing enhanced by shrubbery.

Giles Hall (1935) by Hale WoodruffSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

Giles Hall

Named in honor of Harriet. E. Giles, one of the founders of Spelman College, Giles Hall was originally dedicated to teacher training. Today, the facility contains classrooms and offices, and the top floor houses art studios and a computer graphics arts lab. 

Fountain, Spelman Campus (1935) by Hale WoodruffSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

Fountain, Spelman Campus

Conceived and dedicated in 1927 by the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College (NAASC), the Grover-Werden Memorial Fountain represents a fountain of waters, a fountain of knowledge, and a fountain of Life Eternal.

Built to provide cold water on hot summer days, the fountain is located in the center of the Spelman College Oval.  The fountain was named for two former Spelman teachers, Caroline M. Grover and Evelina O. Werden.

Graves Hall, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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Giles Hall, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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Oglethorpe, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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Chadwick Home, Hale Woodruff, 1935, From the collection of: Spelman College Museum of Fine Art
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"[This] architectural anthology functions as an iconic reference to institutional grandeur, the making of landmarks, the cultural significance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the historical/political implications of reading." — Amalia K. Amaki

Sisters Chapel (1935) by Hale WoodruffSpelman College Museum of Fine Art

Sisters Chapel

Sisters Chapel honors Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her sister, Lucy Maria Spelman. Dedicated in 1907, it is the official gathering space on Spelman College’s campus and serves as the auditorium for religious services, convocations, concerts, and lectures.

With a seating capacity of 1,050 at the time of construction, the facility had the largest seating capacity available in the Atlanta University Center. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., laid in state in Sisters Chapel from April 6 – 8, 1968.

Sisters Chapel was restored and renovated in 2005.

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