The Creative Legacy at Clark Atlanta University

Dive into the creative legacy of Clark Atlanta University, from public art to performing arts

Clark Atlanta University (CAU)

Photographers: Curtis McDowell, Jim Alexander, Horace Henry, Thomas A. Askew. Story: Mia Jones-Walker

Clark Atlanta University's Creative Legacy

From the start of its parent institutions, Atlanta University and Clark College, Clark Atlanta University (CAU) has demonstrated a commitment to arts and culture. Faculty members and alumni have made significant contributions in the worlds of visual art, music, theater, and literature.

Today, the University continues to build upon its creative legacy in the world.

Opening, 16th Annual Art Exhibition (1957-04/1957-06) by UnknownClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Hale Woodruff and the Annual Exhibition

Hale Woodruff, who served as a faculty member at Atlanta University from 1931-1946. Trained in Paris, Professor Woodruff's vision and influence set the foundation for the Clark Atlanta University Art Museum. 

In 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 from 1943-1970.

Atlanta University faculty member Hale Woodruff helped establish the first permanent fine arts collection at an HBCU in the South, and created enormous murals installed at Trevor Arnett Hall, depicting and celebrating a history of African-American creativity.

Muses, Panel Six, Art of the Negro series (1950/1952) by Hale A. WoodruffClark Atlanta University (CAU)

The Art of the Negro Murals at the CAU Museum

One of CAU Art Museum’s most distinctive features is the Art of the Negro mural series located on the second floor of Trevor Arnett Hall.

This mural consists of six 12 x 12 foot oil-on-canvas panels. The works highlight Woodruff’s desire to provide a global narrative of the cultural history of Africans in the Americas.

Spiritual Time (1994-04/1996-08) by Frank Toby MartinClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Spiritual Time by Frank Toby Martin

Commissioned by the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta (CODA) for the 1996 Olympics, this public art was created as a project of the Atlanta University Center Promenade and made possible by partnership with the Atlanta University Center, Inc.

The Cultural Olympiad, a committee of local and international business and arts leaders, brought several public works to the Atlanta University Center preceding the 1996 Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, Georgia.

Communication Linkages Between Africa and America (2020-06) by Fred AjanougahClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Communication Linkages by Fred Ajanou

Communication Linkages between America and Africa: A Benin Bronze sculpture donated to CAU on Dec 6th, 1991 by Regional Prime Minister Dr. Alhaji Hassan Adamu and the Wakili Council of Nigeria. 

The sculpture depicts three elements: The World Globe, the Talking Drum, and Satellite Dish (modern communications). The statue is nine feet tall, weighs 800 lbs. and was designed by Nigerian artist Fred Ajanou.

W.E.B. Du Bois Bust (2020-04/2020-06) by Ayokunle OdeleClark Atlanta University (CAU)

The W.E.B. DuBois Statue

W.E.B. DuBois Statue, at Clark Atlanta University Harkness Quad (Artist: Ayokunle Odele, 2013), honors Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, who believed that “Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men.” 

W.E.B Du Bois was the first African-American to receive the doctorate degree from Harvard, DuBois joined the faculty of Atlanta University in 1897, where he started the Phylon publication and the Crisis Magazine for the NAACP.

Atlanta University alumna Adrienne Elizabeth McNeil Herndon (AU'1890) created the oldest drama program in the country at Atlanta University, where she served as the head of the department of drama and elocution, 1895-1905.

Portrait of Adrienne Herndon, dramatist and faculty member (1889/1890) by unknownClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Department of Drama and Elocution

Actress and alumna Adrienne Elizabeth McNeil Herndon (Atlanta University, 1890) created and led the drama and elocution department in 1895, one of the oldest drama programs in the country. 

Taming of the Shrew Performance (1906) by Thomas A. AskewClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Herndon and the Performing Arts

Herndon brought Shakespeare to the South at Atlanta University, presenting The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Rivals. 

She directed the University's theater offerings and gave Atlanta's black community access to serious, high-quality drama productions.

As a nexus for fine arts, literature, and performing arts in the South, Atlanta University and Clark College often hosted visiting luminaries, including poets Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, contemporary dance pioneer Alvin Ailey, and legendary musicians, such as Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie.

Alvin Ailey Dancers, Onstage (1963) by UnknownClark Atlanta University (CAU)

Dance at Clark Atlanta

Alvin Ailey dancers perform "Revelations" on stage; world renown choreographer Alvin Ailey is on the far left. Revelations is the best-known work of the Modern Dance choreographer Alvin Ailey. 

WCLK initial broadcast (1974-04/1974-09) by Boyd LewisClark Atlanta University (CAU)

The First Black Educational Radio Station in Georgia

McPheeters-Dennis Hall once served as the home of WCLK, the first Black federally licensed educational FM radio station in Georgia! WCLK 91.9 FM, a National Public Radio affiliate and Atlanta’s jazz station, has continued to serve the greater Atlanta community for over 45 years.

The Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic Society originally formed at Clark College Department of Music. For over a century, The CAU Philharmonic Society has performed works in the choral genre, including classical, African folk songs, spirituals, gospel, and jazz.

Clark Atlanta University

CAU Philharmonic Society Performs the Black National Anthem at Harkness Hall (2021-02-25/2021-03-07) by Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic SocietyClark Atlanta University (CAU)

CAU Philharmonic Society Performs the Black National Anthem

The CAU Philharmonic Society opened the 70th NBA All-Star Game with an original rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” arranged by Dr. Roland Carter and directed by Dr. Curtis Powell.

Credits: Story

All rights reserved by Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library and/or copyright holder, unless otherwise stated. Photographs: Curtis McDowell/Clark Atlanta University; video by CAU & the National Basketball Association, Inc.


Story by Mia Jones-Walker

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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