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Augusta Savage: Down and In with Sculpture

September 14, 2013

A promising African American sculpture artist, Augusta Savage (1892-1962), was realizing her artistry during a time in American history when it was made it difficult for Black artists to be recognized for their talent. This meant that learning how to deal with the racial politics of her time was critical. The timing was off in this regard, and this propelled Savage to work much harder than the average White artist.

Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage

Savage fiercely fought red tape for Blacks within the WPA, a New Deal agency that employed people during the Great Depression. The WPA helped her establish the Harlem Community Art Center. Savage was also vocal in the press and published her sentiment in the New York World after being rejected in 1923 for being Black by a four-year sculpting program in France. Eventually, she was accepted into the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and was able to attend because of donations and contributions that she generated nationwide.

With sculptures such as Gamin (1929) and Life Every Voice and Sing a.k.a. The Harp (1939), it is clear that Savage was down for her race. She would persuade African American children who would stand outside one of her Harlem studios to come inside. She once said: “Because they ought to know there are [B]lack artists.” It is admirable that she never attempted to find success in downtown Manhattan.

Not only was Savage down with her race, but the race was down with her.  And, she may very easily be the most talented Black sculptor the world has ever seen.

Gamin (1929) by Augusta Savage.

Gamin (1929) by Augusta Savage.

Life Every Voice and Sing (1939) by Augusta Savage.

Life Every Voice and Sing (1939) by Augusta Savage.

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