Cummer Museum Exhibit Features Green Cove Artist As Sculptor, Educator And Organizer

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The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville has created a new exhibition focusing on the late artist Augusta Savage, a Green Cove Springs native.

Savage spent time in Jacksonville eventually ended up in New York City, where she became part of the Harlem Renaissance art explosion.

Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman officially opens to the general public Thursday.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

Savage, who died in 1962, was primarily a sculptor. Nineteen of her pieces in addition to a water color of hers are in the show, Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman.

The show’s curator Jeffreen Hayes said the collection is notable because most people know Savage by a couple of her most popular pieces.

“There hasn’t been an Augusta Savage show in decades,” Hayes said.

The Savage exhibit also includes old photos and archival documents, including letters from France’s Fontainebleau School explaining why it rescinding a scholarship offer to her because she was black.

One displayed letter from the school’s advisory committee’s chair read “to be perfectly frank with you, we did learn that Miss Savage was of the colored race and the question was put before our Advisory Committee who strongly felt that in a school as the Fontainebleau School it would not be wise to have a colored student.”

Hayes said the refusal made national news.

The Savage exhibit includes old photos and archival documents.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

“It was a big conversation around the intersection with race and art,” she said.

The show presents Savage as an artist, educator, organizer, “and as just a woman living her purpose,” Hayes said.

Savage’s experience with racism in the art world turned her into a teacher and mentor to other black artists. She had her own studio in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, giving free lessons.

“It was one of the only art spaces for black residents and aspiring artists,” she said.

Many of her mentee’s art pieces are in the Cummer’s Savage exhibit. While 20 are Savages, the exhibit showcases about 80 total pieces.

Savage’s sculptures at the Cummer are in different mediums: terracotta, bronze and plaster.

The Cummer is selling a book put together by Hayes with all the exhibit’s works, and additional essays about Savage
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News

The Cummer curated the collection with the help of 20 lenders. Six pieces were already part of the museum’s collection. The exhibit officially opens to the public Thursday evening.

Once the exhibit wraps up in April, it will travel to New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

For those in Jacksonville who aren’t able to catch the exhibition, the Cummer is selling a book put together by Hayes with all the exhibit’s works, and additional essays about Savage.

Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.