Hale Woodruff was one of the few black painters to be employed by the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Woodruff served on the faculty of Atlanta University from 1931 to 1945. During which time, he studied mural painting with Diego Rivera in Mexico City. Woodruff was deeply influenced by Riviera’s Social Realism and the way it celebrated the lives and struggles of everyday people.
These two painting s were studies for two murals Woodruff would complete under his WPA commission for Herndon Homes in Atlanta. The paintings were later given as gifts from Woodruff to James H. Therrell, director of the Atlanta Housing Authority, a federally sponsored agency that opened University Homes, America’s first public housing project. Woodruff, a long-time resident of Atlanta, was keenly aware of the living conditions of those facing poverty. The paintings’ titles (Results of Poor Housing and Results of Good Housing) depict with a bit of New Deal rhetoric the general effects of positive and negative living environments.
What connections can be made? Are there other works of art that could dovetail with the themes in these paintings? Is it worth exploring the fact that America’s public housing initiative was launched in our city. What has become of these murals and these housing projects?