Celebrating creative black trailblazers for #BHM; meet…
Name: Augusta Savage
Born: February 29, 1892 – March 26, 1962
Creative Discipline: Artist
Known for: being an African-American Sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance, she worked tirelessly for equal rights for African Americans in the arts.
Augusta Fells (Savage) was born in Green Cove Springs (near Jacksonville), Florida. She began making clay figures as a child, mostly small animals, but her father would beat her when he found her sculptures. This was because at that time, he believed her sculpture to be a sinful practice. After the family moved to West Palm Beach, she sculpted a Virgin Mary figure, and, upon seeing it, her father changed his mind, regretting his past actions. The principal of her new school recognized and encouraged her talent, and paid her one dollar a day to teach modeling during her senior year. This began a lifelong commitment to teaching as well as to art.
In 1925 Savage won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Rome; the scholarship covered only tuition, however, and she was not able to raise money for travel and living expenses. Thus she was unable to attend.
Knowledge of Savage's talent and struggles became widespread in the African-American community; fund-raising parties were held in Harlem and Greenwich Village, and African-American women's groups and teachers from Florida A&M all sent her money for studies abroad. In 1929, with assistance as well from the Julius Rosenwald Fund, Savage enrolled and attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a leading Paris art school.
Savage returned to the United States in 1931, energized from her studies and achievements. The Great Depression had nearly stopped art sales. She pushed on, and in 1934 became the first African-American artist to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.
She then launched the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts, located in a basement on West 143rd Street in Harlem. She opened her studio to anyone who wanted to paint, draw, or sculpt. Her many young students would include the future nationally known artists Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Gwendolyn Knight.
Article by Lucy G / 10th October 2012
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