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The Howard University Gallery of Art was established in 1928. Professor James V. Herring (1897-1969), founder of the Howard University Art Department, and James A. Porter (1905-1970), professor and artist, were its first directors. Originally set up in the lower floor of historic Rankin Chapel (built in 1895), the gallery moved to the ground floor of Founders Library in 1941. In 1961 it moved to its current home in Childers Hall, which honors Lulu Vere Childers (1870-1946), former director of the School of Music (now the Department of Music). The gallery is one-third of the college's Fine Arts complex. The renowned African artifacts collection began with items donated by avid collector Alain Locke (1886-1954), a Howard professor and key figure of the New Negro Renaissance. The African American art collection includes works by Henry O. Tanner, Edmonia Lewis, Archibald Motley, Romare Bearden, and many others. The gallery also holds significant collections of Renaissance and Baroque paintings as well as European prints. It has benefited from periodic gifts of art collected by the federal government.

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