Black History

Augusta Savage

Sculptor Augusta Savage was one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance as well as an influential activist and arts educator.

“From the time I can first recall the rain falling on the red clay in Florida. I wanted to make things. When my brothers and sisters were making mud pies, I would be making ducks and chickens with the mud.” -Augusta Savage

as1Augusta Savage is an Artist, Civil Rights Activist, Sculptor, and Educator who was born February 29, 1892, as Augusta Christine Fells. When she was a child, Savage started making art from natural clay she found around her area. She loved sculpting small figures and animals. Savage’s father didn’t approve of her art and tried everything he could to stop her, but that didn’t stop her from creating her sculptures.  Her family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in 1915, which sent a challenge her way, the lack of clay, but once again that didn’t stop her. She got some materials from a local potter and created some figures that she then entered into the county fair. Her piece won the winning prize as well as the support of the fair’s superintendent, George Graham Currie, who encouraged her to study art.

Savage’s art consisted of very important African Americans, such as W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, and she was soon considered to be one of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance, a preeminent African-American literary and artistic movement of the 1920s and ’30s. She was finally able to study abroad, and was awarded a Julius Rosenwald fellowship in 1929. She spent time in Paris, and with the Carneige Foundation grant, she was allowed to travel to other European countries. When she arrived back to the States, it was during the Great Depression. She began teaching art and established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in 1932. Savage was the first black artist to join the National Associations of Women Painters and Sculptors. She assisted several African-American artists, and lobbied the Works Project Administration to help other young artists find work during the financial struggle, and she also helped found the Harlem Artists’ Guild.  

Savage lived most of her remaining years in the solitude of small-town life, where she dabbled in writing and taught summer camps. When she became sick, she moved back to New York to be with her daughter and family. March 26, 1972, Savage died of cancer in New York City. Savage is remembered today as a great artist, activist and arts educator, serving as an inspiration to the many that she taught, helped and encouraged.

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