For the eighth day of Black History Month, SHEEN Magazine would like to recognize a woman who served as an African-American artist, activist, and arts educator, Augusta Savage. Growing up in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Augusta made art out of the natural clay in her community, and at that moment her passion to study the arts began. In the 1920s, she moved to New York City with only $4.60 and she studied art at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, which did not charge tuition. Augusta finished the four-year program in three years, and received a scholarship to study abroad in Paris, France, which she was subsequently rejected from because of her race. The rejection from this school of the arts in France empowered Augusta to fight for civil rights and for black artists to gain recognition. She took to action, writing to local newspapers, both black and white, about the selection committee’s discriminatory ways. Although this did not change the committee’s decisions, it also did not discourage Augusta.
Later, she made a name for herself as a portrait sculptor. She began by sculpting busts of W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. One of her best works is known as the Gamin, an informal bust of her nephew. She was known as one of the leading artists in the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1932, she established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts. While teaching and fighting for the commission of young African-American artists, Augusta became the first African-American member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. In 1939, she completed a sixteen-foot sculpture called The Harp inspired by the Negro spiritual “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This was her largest work of art and last major project. Augusta is remembered for her beautiful works of art, and strength to stand up for all black artists.