Black History Month:  Augusta Savage

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Black History Month:  Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage was born in 1892 in Green Cove Springs. Savage was a leading artist during the Harlem Renaissance as a sculptor, art teacher and activist. 

Savage went from being a little girl creating clay art in her hometown to a woman whose vision was showcased in Paris, influencing a generation of young black artists. 

Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens Director and CEO, Adam Levine says this exhibit tells Savages’ whole story. “The reason having this exhibition here is so important isn’t just because Augusta Savage was from here it’s because she is included alongside the great artist of all time.”

Levine says Savage wanted to show black people through a lens that ran counter to the stereotypes of the day. “There were not images of black men and women that were depicted favorably by and large in popular culture.” 

Savage ultimately moved out of the south to New York where she earned a reputation as a portrait sculptor for prominent African-American figures like NAACP leader W.E.B DuBois. 

As her recognition grew, she earned a prestigious scholarship to Paris, but wasn’t admitted. 

One of the things that catapulted Augusta Savage to fame was when she was rejected from a fine arts school in France because of her color, because she was a black woman. People began to write letters challenging that. Some of those letters are at the Cummer including those from W.E.B. DuBois. 

She faced oppression her whole life and many of the issues she faced still resonates today. 

Savage eventually made it to Paris on a fellowship after the debut of her sculpture, “Gamin”. It’s considered her most successful sculpture. 

Marcia Ripley, visited the Augusta Savage exhibit and says, “I’ve traveled a lot and have been to all of the fancy museums. But to see something by a black woman, or a collection of art by a black artist is amazing. You don’t often…you don’t see that.” 

Augusta Savage ensured her legacy through the work of young artists. 

One of Savage’s largest pieces was inspired by another Jacksonville native, James Weldon Johnson. Johnson wrote what’s affectionately known as the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. The piece is called “The Harp”. It was destroyed because she couldn’t afford to cast it in bronze or store it. A smaller version of “The Harp” is at the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens right now. 

*This story is from Action News Jax*

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