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Black Activists - Augusta Savage

Updated on July 7, 2012

Augusta Savage was born February 29, 1892 in Green Cove Springs, Florida and died March 26, 1962 in New York, New York. Savage is best known as a sculptor in the Harlem Renaissance and as an activist. Savage struggled against adversity to pursue what she loved. Savage’s father did not want her to be an artist but that did not sway her she continued on. Her perseverance paid off when Savage’s work was used in the New York World’s Fair and Savage herself taught other famous African American artists such as Jacob Lawrence. Augusta was an artist, educator, activist and so much more.

Artist

As a child Savage began making art with the natural clay she found in her neighborhood. Savage was a sculptor and would make small figures and animals. Savage entered a group of figures in a local county fair and won a prize. Savage also won the support of the fair’s organizer who suggested she study art. Savage studied art at Cooper Union, a New York City art school. Savage received a scholarship and finished the four year program in three years. Savage applied to a summer art program in France but was rejected because of her race. For the 1939 World’s Fair in New York Savage received a commission and created The Harp. The sculpture was the most popular and most photographed work at the fair but the sculpture was destroyed at the end of the fair.

Teacher

During the depression Savage began teaching art at her studio, Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts. Through her studio Savage helped many young African-American artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis. Savage also lobbied the Works Projects Administration on behalf of African-American artists to help them find work during difficult financial times. Savage helped to create the Harlem Artists' Guild. Savage’s work helped her to get a position of director with theHarlemCommunity Center. TheHarlemCommunity Center offered art instruction to students of all kinds. Savage enjoyed being a teacher and teaching art as much as she enjoyed creating her artwork.

Activist

When Savage was rejected because of her race by the summer art program in France she took a call to action. Savage contacted the local media about the program and the discrimination she received from the program. Although this did not change the committees mind Savage’s story made headlines in several newspapers. Disappointed but not defeated Savage was able to take her art in a different direction and started creating portraits of African American leaders such as W.E.B DuBois and Marcus Garvey to name a few. Savage worked closely with the African American movements and the African American leaders lending her support and helping whenever and however she could.

At the time of her death Savage was all but forgotten and her art pieces were no where to be found. Only a few pieces of art of Savage’s have been displayed at various museums. Today Savage is remembered as a great artist, activist, and educator. Savage is an inspiration to the many that she taught, helped, and encouraged. Because of her work Savage was considered to be one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance. Augusta Savage made a huge impact on the world with her artistic style, her works of arts and her art instruction.

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