Palmer Museum presents 'Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman' exhibition

August 15, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State will open its major special exhibition of the fall season, "Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman," on Aug. 24. Featuring nearly 80 objects, including sculptures, paintings, works on paper, and archival materials, this exhibition is the first to reassess Harlem Renaissance artist Augusta Savage’s contributions to art and cultural history in light of her role as an artist-activist.

Andrew Herman, Augusta Savage with Her Sculpture

Andrew Herman, "Augusta Savage with Her Sculpture 'Realization,'" 1938, Federal Art Project, Works Progress Administration, gelatin silver print, 10 x 8 inches. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, Photographs and Prints Division, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, 86-0036.

IMAGE: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

“We are honored to present this major exhibition of the American sculptor Augusta Savage at the Palmer this fall,” said the museum’s director, Erin M. Coe. “We are dedicated to shedding new light on underrepresented artists, and this examination of Savage’s career and achievements is both timely and relevant given the current focus on social activism and the concept of the artist-activist.”

A gifted sculptor, Savage (1892–1962) was born in Green Cove Springs, Florida, and later became a significant teacher, leader and catalyst for change. Overcoming poverty, racism and sexual discrimination, she became one of this country’s most influential artists of the 20th century. She played an instrumental role in mentoring many celebrated African American artists, including William Artis, Romare Bearden, Selma Burke, Robert Blackburn, Gwendolyn Knight, Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis, whose works are also included in the exhibition.

A prodigious and highly acclaimed artist in her own right, Savage’s art elevated images of black culture into mainstream America. A central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, she worked with other leaders, writers, musicians and artists to showcase the contributions of African American culture and was the first black woman to open her own gallery. As a community organizer and teacher, she provided a bridge between Harlem Renaissance artists and subsequent generations of creative individuals.

"Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman" is curated by Jeffreen M. Hayes and organized by the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Sotheby’s Prize. The presentation of the exhibition at the Palmer Museum of Art is supported by the Paul Robeson Cultural Center and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

A fully illustrated companion catalog reexamines 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.

The exhibition is on view at the Palmer Museum of Art through Dec. 8.

Related programming: 

Friday, Sept. 13

Gallery Talk: "Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman"

12:10 p.m.

Joyce Robinson, assistant director

Join us on Friday afternoons at 12:10 p.m. for interesting, enlightening gallery talks on current exhibitions and selected works from the permanent collection.

Thursday, Sept. 26

Art After Hours: Art + Activism + Social Change

6-9 p.m.

Explore the artistic, social and historic impact of artists Augusta Savage and John Biggers, and get inspired to create change through art. Participate in gallery discussions, make art and enjoy music in the galleries. 

Join us once a month for evening events designed especially for students. Art After Hours offers multiple activities, programs and performances that help visitors of all ages connect with art in fun and interesting ways.

Thursday, Sept. 26

Art history lecture: Theresa Leininger-Miller

6 p.m., during Art After Hours

Palmer Lipcon Auditorium

Theresa Leininger-Miller is a noted expert on the life and work of Augusta Savage and the author of "New Negro Artists in Paris: African American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922–1934." She will look closely at two of the sculptor’s best-known works, "Gamin" (1929) and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" (1939), offering insights about their iconography, critical reception and historical legacy.

Thursday, Sept. 26

Gallery Talk: "The Power of Art in Public Spaces: Lessons from Augusta Savage and John Biggers"

7:30 p.m.

Carlos Wiley, director, Paul Robeson Cultural Center

Join us for interesting, enlightening gallery talks on current exhibitions and selected works from the permanent collection.

Thursday, Oct. 24

Curator lecture: "Augusta Savage: Leading the Way"

5:30 p.m.

Jeffreen Hayes, executive director, Threewalls

Curator and scholar Jeffreen Hayes will reexamine Augusta Savage's legacy as a public intellectual, pioneering artist and social activist. Hayes is the executive director of Threewalls, a Chicago-based organization that brings segregated communities, people and experiences together through art. 

Friday, Nov. 15

Gallery Talk: "Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman"

12:10 p.m.

Wanda Knight, associate professor of art education and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and professor-in-charge of art education

Join us on Friday afternoons at 12:10 p.m. for interesting, enlightening gallery talks on current exhibitions and selected works from the permanent collection.

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,600 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit palmermuseum.psu.edu.

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State 

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a new University Art Museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building would dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It would be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at artmuseum.psu.edu.

  • Augusta Savage, The Harp, 1939

    Augusta Savage, "The Harp," 1939, bronze, 10¾ x 9½ x 4 inches.

    IMAGE: University of North Florida, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, Special Collections and Archives, Eartha M. M. White Collection

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Last Updated August 16, 2019