An easy day trip from Macon, two of Atlanta University Center’s historically black colleges are home to art galleries specializing in African American art. Clark Atlanta University’s (CAU) galleries and Spelman College’s museum offer students and visitors a special experience.
Clark Atlanta University has roots dating back to the founding of Atlanta University in 1865 and Clark College in 1869. CAU’s art galleries house one of the largest collections of African American art in the nation, including works by artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, and Hale Woodruff, who established Atlanta University’s art program.
Atlanta University held its first exhibition in 1942, Exhibitions of Paintings, Sculptures & Prints by Negro Artists in America. Through this annual exhibition – held until 1970 – and well into today, the collection has grown significantly to include more than 900 pieces of African American art as well as smaller collections of contemporary American and African art. Perhaps the most significant piece in the galleries is Hale Woodruff’s Art of the Negro murals, a series of six panels painted 1950-1951 to reflect black Americans’ cultural past.
Spelman College, a private liberal arts school for women, was originally a safe haven for former slave girls. The college’s Museum of Fine Art is a resource for those affiliated with the college as well “art enthusiasts of all ages.” It is the only museum in the United States which emphasizes works by and about women of the African Diaspora. The collection includes painting, sculpture, prints, and textiles as well as an extensive assortment of art from Africa. The museum is part of the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, which was named in honor of the wife of Dr. William H. (aka Bill) Cosby.
From Macon, it is approximately a 90-minute drive north on I-75 to downtown Atlanta. Directions are available here.