The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State will open its major special exhibition of the fall season, Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, on August 24. Featuring nearly eighty 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.
“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,” she added.
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 twentieth 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, Ph.D., 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 catalogue 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 December 8.