Cummer Museum Officially Opens Augusta Savage Exhibition

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Cummer Museum
October 19, 2018

Augusta Savage working on a sculpture

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens has officially opened its fall and spring exhibition “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman.” The exhibition, one of the most significant and largest organized by the Museum in its history, opened Friday, October 12 for a rare double-run through April 2019. Savage is a Green Cove Springs native who became a noted Harlem Renaissance leader, educator, artist, and catalyst for change. The exhibition at the Cummer Museum is the largest ever assembled dedicated to Savage’s legacy and work.

The exhibition assembled by the Cummer Museum from 21 national public and private lenders presents Savage’s small- and medium-size sculptures in bronze and other media alongside works by artists she mentored. Many of the works that will be on display are rarely seen publicly. It took more than three years for Jeffreen M. Hayes, Ph.D., guest curator and art historian who serves as executive director of Threewalls,to plan and assemble. The Museum’s Savage Exhibition Planning and Community Advisory Committee includes museum trustees and notable Black leaders and artists: Carol Alexander, Dustin Harewood, Barbara Harrell, Marty Jones, Princess Simpson Rashid, James Richardson, and Adonnica Toler.

In addition to the exhibition, the Museum has created a companion catalogue that chronicles the history of this important Black artist. Published internationally by London-based firm D Giles Limited, this hardcover book further explores Savage’s impact and legacy. Contributors include Hayes, Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D. (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque), Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D. (University of California, Irvine), with a foreword by Dr. Howard Dodson, Jr., director emeritus of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The book will be available in October on Amazon and at the Cummer Museum Shop.

When its double-run concludes in April, “Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” will travel nationally to the New-York Historical Society, the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University, and the Dixon Gallery & Gardens (Memphis). This marks the first time a Cummer Museum-organized exhibition of this scale will travel to multiple national venues.

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Savage (1892 – 1962), a female sculptor, overcame poverty, racism, and sexual discrimination to become one of this country’s most influential artists of the 20thcentury, playing a pivotal role in the development of some of this country’s most celebrated artists, including William Artis, Romare Bearden, Gwendolyn Bennett, Robert Blackburn, Gwendolyn Knight, Jacob Lawrence, and Norman Lewis.

While Savage’s artistic skill was widely acclaimed nationally and internationally during her lifetime, this exhibition provides a critical examination of her artistic legacy, positioning Savage as a leading figure whose far-reaching and multifaceted approach to facilitating cultural and social change is especially relevant in terms of today’s interest in activism.

“The Cummer Museum is committed to presenting a broad calendar of temporary exhibitions with the capacity to illuminate diverse areas of art history and artistic production,” said Holly Keris, acting director of the Cummer Museum. “The Museum embraces themes and topics with strong community relevance that challenge our audience’s preconceived opinions. The Augusta Savage exhibition is a proud testament to our commitment to the community.”

A prodigious and highly-acclaimed artist in her own right, Savage achieved excellence through talent, self-determination, and vision, ultimately creating sculptures and large-scale commissions that elevated positive images of Black culture into mainstream America. As a leader in the Harlem Renaissance, she worked with other leaders, writers, musicians, and artists to showcase the contributions of Black culture. She was the first Black woman to open her own gallery, challenging exclusive arts institutions to recognize the talent of Black artists. As a community organizer and teacher, Savage’s commitment to mentorship and education became a model for other art schools run by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Savage is best known for “The Harp”her commissioned sculpture for the 1939 World’s Fair, and is recognized in American Black history as an educator and important community leader.

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The Museum seeks to connect its resources to contemporary issues, increase engagement by providing new perspectives on familiar and unfamiliar concepts, and cement the Cummer Museum as the place in Jacksonville where visitors can connect the arts to their everyday lives.

“Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman” can be viewed and enjoyed with regular Museum admission during the exhibition dates. As always, it is free for anyone in the community on Florida Blue Free Tuesdays from 4 to 9 p.m. every Tuesday evening and again on Weaver First Saturday Free for All, held the first Saturday of each month. A full companion program and events calendar will support the exhibition. If you are interested in booking a private tour or reception, please contact the Events & Programs department at 904.899.6026.

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