Augusta Savage at work on The Harp, 1935-1945, New York World’s Fair (1939-1940). Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2018 TO SUNDAY, APRIL 7, 2019
Organized by guest curator Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D.
This exhibition features nearly 80 works of art, including sculptures, paintings, and works on paper, and is the first to reassess Harlem Renaissance artist Augusta Savage’s contributions to art and cultural history in light of 21st-century attention to the concept of the artist-activist. The fully illustrated companion catalogue presents the most up-to-date scholarly research, re-examines Savage’s place in the history of American sculpture and positions her as a leading figure who broke down the barriers she and her students encountered while seeking to participate fully in the art world.
Augusta’s family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida in about 1908. Gussie and her one-year -old daughter moved here also. They lived in homes like these. Artwork has been added recently for a lively touch. Gussie and her daughter Irene had their own place a few doors down from her parents. The very basic frame dwellings were put up to house African-Americans who worked for the extravagant new hotels in Palm Beach. Gussie and her mother were laundresses for the hotels. On my recent book tour, a resident of West Palm Beach said she didn’t think these were the homes where Gussie’s family lived, because the famous Okeechobie Hurricane probably would have blown them down. However, I think the homes were probably similar to this.
This is the road to the house Augusta lived in when she left New York City. Here is the road sign that the community chose to replace the one that originally said “Nigger Road. (After a while one of the g’s was taken out to make the sign look like NIG ER Road). Augusta Savage was well-received in Saugerties when she came in the 1940s. However, she chose to spend most of her time tending her little farm, taking notes at a laboratory, and visiting with the neighbor children. She did about seven works of art in Saugerties but left the art world for the most part…while only in mid-life.
Savage went here in her forties, possibly at the peak of her career. People asked “Why?’ She left her NYC apartment with electricity and plumbing to inhabit a house that used an outhouse and a pump at the sink.
Mural at the Harlem Hospital-When Augusta was in charge of the WPA art program in the 1930s, her artists did murals for this community hospital. They had difficulty getting the mural approved, because it showed black people in professions, like the nurse and doctors.
The owner knew as much as could be known about Augusta Savage seeing as how she was born here about 125 years ago, and being the child of former slaves, no one anticipated that she would be famous someday.