Monumental Women to Re-Create Augusta Savage’s 1939 Sculpture ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’

 

 

 

Augusta Savage in her studio working on her 1939 New York World’s Fair monument Lift Every Voice and Sing. Credit: Courtesy of Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library

In honor of the Birthday of Augusta Savage, February 29th, Monumental Women announces the formation of a coalition to re-create African American sculptor Augusta Savage’s Lift Every Voice and Sing sculpture that was created for the 1939 World’s Fair held in Queens, New York.

Viewed by more than 5 million fair attendees, Savage’s sculpture was destroyed after the World’s Fair ended. Savage was an important part of the Harlem Renaissance and one of America’s foremost African American women artists. She worked as a sculptor and educator and fought against sexism and racism. Eighty–five years after its debut, Savage’s pivotal and inspiring artwork deserves to be re-created and known by a new generation.

Join the Coalition Here

Sculptor Augusta Savage with two of her statuettes (left to right) Susie Q and Trucking’ in 1939. Credit: Courtesy of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library

Sculptor Augusta Savage opened the first gallery in the U.S. dedicated to exhibiting the work of Black artists in 1939. She also founded several organizations that provided free art education and training to 2,500 people, and mentored many celebrated artists, including Romare Bearden, Gwendolyn Knight, Jacob Lawrence, Selma Burke, Norman Lewis, and Kenneth B. Clark. Savage was the first African American elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, later renamed the National Association of Women Artists, and was the only Black artist, and one of four women commissioned to create an exhibit for the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. While Savage was both active and prolific, only half of the approximately 160 pieces of sculpture she created have survived today, and little is known about her extensive accomplishments.

Animation of the creation of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Augusta Savage’s 16-foot sculpture for the 1939 World’s Fair. Credit: TMVRTX Studio for Audacious Women Productions

In the PBS documentary as part of American Masters Shorts, ‘Searching for Augusta Savage’ investigates why evidence of Savage’s life and legacy appears to have been erased. Dr. Denise Murrell, Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Large, and Associate Curator of 19th- and 20th-Century Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, provides analysis in the film about why Savage’s work is missing from most museum collections, stating that, “[In] the museum market, the art market, the galleries, the critical attention was given to male artists.” Murrell is curator of the Met’s exhibition, “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism,” which opens February 25, and includes two of Savage’s works of art.

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Read more about the artist in the book ‘Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life or the book ‘Black Artists in America: From the Great Depression to Civil Rights.’