Culture

6 Reasons to Take Your Family to the Museum: Amistad Murals Arrive at the High Museum

Wed., Jun. 6, 2012 11:27 AM EDT
by Yvette Caslin

The Atlanta art community is pleased to welcome the tremendous work of the late Hale Woodruff, an artist and Atlanta University professor who was commissioned by Talladega College in Alabama. “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College” will be showing from June 9, 2012, until Sept. 2, 2012.

“The exhibition features six tremendous murals painted by Hale Woodruff, who was an Atlanta-based artist in the 1930s-40s. He taught and worked at the Atlanta University colleges and in 1938 was invited to teach classes at Talladega College. At that time, they were building their library and [Woodruff] was commissioned to paint the murals in the foyer to depict the institution’s culture,” shares Stephanie Heydt, the High Museum of Art’s Margaret and Terry Stent curator of American Art.

They include the three-paneled Amistad Murals: “The Revolt,” “The Court Scene,” and “Back to Africa,” to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Amistad Rebellion, a 19th century revolt by West Africans on the Spanish slave ship La Amistad. The three other panels are the Underground Railroad, the first registration day at Swayne Hall, and the construction of Slavery Library.

Heydt believes the themes are universal and transcend the original intent. “They’re fantastic, wonderful and inspirational.” She continues, “The themes trace the road from slavery to freedom. The first canvas addresses the 1839 uprising. It tells an uplifting story. These paintings made a big splash during Woodruff’s time. They were much remarked upon and [garnered] plenty of interest.”

During an oral history interview with the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art (Nov. 18, 1968) Woodruff shares, “The mural was painted in honor of the slaves and their mutiny and their final freedom. It dealt with the mutiny of these black Africans on a slave ship. It’s a very moving story. … This mural, which is there now, is for me a kind of token of my esteem for African art. Also, I wanted it to be something of an inspiration to the students who go to that library, to see something about the art of their ancestors.”

You can also enjoy “Picturing New York: Photographs from the Museum of Modern Art,” which features nearly 150 works by some of the most important photographers of our time; “Picturing the South: New Commissions from the High Museum of Art,” which presents works by three contemporary artists –Martin Parr, Kael Alford and Shane Lavalette; and “Revisiting the South: Richard Misrach’s Cancer Alley” by internationally acclaimed photographer Richard Misrach, which highlights the environmental and ecological degradation of a passage  of the Mississippi River, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, known as Cancer Alley. –yvette caslin

For more information, visit www.high.org or call 404-733-4444.

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