1921. Rose Standish, of New York's Cooper Union Art School and the Art Students League, was the Instructor of Fine and Industrial Arts for nearly a decade. During her term at the institution, she offered an art and design course through the home economics department, a mechanical drawing class as a part of the industrial arts program, and a course in "drawing free-hand" for those whose sole concern was the study of art. 7
The gradual shift to a more fully developed liberal arts curriculum favored fine arts instruction over industrial arts training. However, the school's full commitment to the arts was not realized until 1931 when Hale Aspacio Woodruff ( 1900-1980), an African American painter, was hired to establish an art department in the Atlanta University Center (AUC). 8 Dr. John Hope, president of Atlanta University, and Florence Reed, president of Spelman College, believed that in order to build a well- rounded liberal arts program, a fine arts component emphasizing painting, sculpture, and architecture had to be included. Woodruff was given the task of providing interested AUC students with the opportunity to study painting on Spelman's campus because of his superior training at the Herron Art School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and his experience abroad. Three years later, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet was hired to teach sculpture, art history, and architecture. As a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Prophet became the first African American woman to teach art at the college. Her experience as an internationally exhibited artist and her success as the winner of the 1930 Harmon Foundation prize for sculpture made her a role model for Spelman students, especially those interested in becoming artists. 9 In order to provide proper aesthetic training for these women, the Department of Art was established in the mid-thirties, making it easier for students who chose to become artists or art educators to identify with the discipline directly, rather than through education or home economics courses. Courses designed specifically for the artistic education of Spelman women by Woodruff and Prophet during their tenure at the college provided a foundation for faculty who followed.
The museum that was established in 1899 disappeared during the industrial arts phase of the college's history. However, Hale Woodruff continued exhibiting works of art and using them as teaching tools. Through his efforts and the endeavors of others, Spelman College has amassed an internationally recognized collection of paintings, prints, and photographs as well as an impressive body of African sculptures and textiles. With the founding of the new Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, located in the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, the college has made certain that the arts will continue to play an integral part in the education of African American women well into the next century. As we enter this new phase, Spelman will surely play a pivotal role in providing the nation with future generations of artists/scholars, art historians, critics, and museum professionals.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Bearing Witness:Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists. Contributors: Jontyle Theresa Robinson - Author. Publisher: Rizzoli International Publications. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 13.