Featured News

Steve R. Allen Gifts AUC Woodruff Library Artworks Featured in the Smithsonian

Part of a Multimillion-dollar HBCU Gifting Initiative to Demand Equity in the Business of Art

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 21, 2021 — The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library is honored to be the first recipient of Mr. Allen’s multimillion-dollar gifting program for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Born in a one-room shack in North Carolina and without any formal art training, Mr. Allen has served as the official artist for eight Olympic Games, including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Five of Mr. Allen’s artworks are featured in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) Founding and Permanent Collection in Washington, D.C. His extensive body of work has taken him all over the world and stimulated international dialogue about the significance of art on social justice.

Throughout his career, Mr. Allen has noted the lack of representation on the business side of art as it relates to high-end auction houses and mind-boggling private banking transactions that value artworks as tradeable assets. His HBCU gifting initiative serves as social commentary on the financial value of Black art in American culture and is a demand for equity amongst Black people in the business of art.

The gift of artworks donated to the AUC Woodruff Library is valued at $370,000 and includes six limited-edition Gicleés: “Freedom Journey,” of former President Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; “Battle of New Orleans,” created for the 40th Bayou Classic; “Iola McLeod,” a portrait of Allen’s paternal grandmother; “Coming Full Circle,” return to the 2004 Olympics (Athens); “Torino Olympiqué,” the 2006 Winter Olympics (Italy); and “The Legend” (Hank Aaron), commemorating the 25th anniversary of Aaron’s 715th record-breaking home run.  The originals of these pieces were acquired by the Smithsonian NMAAHC as part of their Founding and Permanent Collection.  Two original portraits, “Dr. Richard Long” and “Patrice Emery Lumumba,” which have been on loan to the AUC Woodruff Library since 2019, are also part of the gift.

“This gift aligns with my mission to expose the variety of visual contributions of African American artists to students, scholars and collectors and, moreover, to demand equity for my brothers and sisters in the business of art. My intention with this gift, and those that follow with other HBCUs, is to strengthen the position of Black institutions as innovative places for teaching art and revealing its power and financial value,” says Allen. “I cannot think of a better way to honor my mother, Rev. Dr. Rebecca Bowden Allen Johnson, and brother Arthur Lee Allen’s, legacies than by providing Black and other audiences around the country with access to these artworks.”

Says Loretta Parham, CEO & Director, AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library, “Allen’s work complements the vision of the Library’s Knowledge and Arts Initiative, which is to promote student and faculty engagement within library learning spaces and in the classroom.  This collection will become curriculum resources for the object-based learning that is made possible by the Library’s GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums) Program.  We are very appreciative of this gift from Mr. Allen.”

Due to the pandemic, a special recognition of Mr. Allen and his work will be planned for next year. Allen’s art will also be digitally accessible through the Library’s e-scholarship repository and the GLAM Center for Collaborative Teaching and Learning portal, providing audiences access from any point on the globe.

About the AUC Woodruff Library

The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library partners with the nation’s largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities: Clark Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College and Spelman College to provide information management, instruction and access to global information resources in support of teaching and learning, scholarship and cultural preservation of the AUC. The Library is the winner of the 2016 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award in the university category from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Home to a premier Archives Research Center, the Library provides collaborative leadership in preservation, access and collection development of unique archival resources documenting African American history and culture. To learn more, visit www.auctr.edu.

About Steve R. Allen

A celebrated and internationally renowned artist, Mr. Steve R. Allen was the official artist for eight Olympic games and has five founding and permanent artworks featured in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. Mr. Allen’s papers were acquired by Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library alongside other luminaries including Langston Hughes, Alice Walker and Josephine Baker. Mr. Allen’s artworks are featured in private collections around the world. For further information on Mr. Allen and his artworks, contact Seanne N. Murray at [email protected]. Please contact publicist for interview requests: Diane Larche’ at 404-273-3227[email protected].

Ask a Librarian

Do you have questions about our recent news or upcoming events? Let us know.

Learn How