This dynamic exhibition showcases the private family art collection along with personal items from the artist.
As an added plus to the Homecoming exhibition celebration and in the tradition of the Changing Gallery’s renowned reputation we have invited artists to showcase their artwork that pays homage to the influence of the mastery of Hale Woodruff and what it has had on their creative process as visual artists. The artists are Alexander Austin, Spenser Albertsen, Melena Brown, Najee Dorsey, Clifford Doyle, Daniel Edwards, José Faus, Amy Hughes, Al Hawkins, Selina ONeal, Lonnie Robinson, Grant Robinson, Harold Smith, and Michael Toombs. Curated by Sonié Joi Thompson-Ruffin, Visiting Curator of the American Jazz Museum.
Hale Aspacio Woodruff (1900–1980), a native of Cairo, Ill., taught art at Talladega College during the 1930s. His experience at the college and around the country caught the attention of the college’s president, Dr. Buel G. Gallagher (1934 – 1943) who commissioned the talented artist and educator to paint the murals. Woodruff jumped at the opportunity, drawing off his reputation he had already made to developing African American art and distinguishing himself as an arts educator. He also had studied art both at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and the Fogg Museum of Harvard University.
Woodruff’s first mural project was collaboration with Wilmer Jennings in 1934. The four-panel mural, titled “The Negro in Modern American Life: Agriculture and Rural Life; Literature, Music, and Art,” was part of a public works project and a teaching project that involved both Woodruff’s students and a local junior high school.
In 1935, Woodruff shared his expertise on Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals for the Atlanta School of Social Work. Between 1931 and 1946, he served as the first chair of the newly established art department of Atlanta University. Also in 1935 Hale married Theresa Ada (Ted) Barker of Topeka, Kansas in 1935, their only child Roy was born in 1936.
To help him make the murals at Talladega that much more impressive, Woodruff studied mural painting in Mexico under the mentorship of Diego Rivera during the summer of 1936. He wanted to capture the detail and drama of each panel for the murals, and learned as much as he could to improve his technique.
In 1946, he became a teacher at New York University, where he taught art for more than 20 years until his retirement in 1968. During the mid-1960s Woodruff and fellow artist Romare Bearden were instrumental in starting the Spiral Group, a collaboration of African American artists working in New York. The Studio Museum in Harlem presented a retrospective of his work titled “Hale Woodruff: 50 Years of His Art” in 1979, and the High presented “Hale Woodruff in Atlanta” in 2004, the first solo exhibition of Woodruff’s paintings in Atlanta since his death in 1980.