Augusta Savage

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Arts & Community Center

To enrich the quality of life for the community by providing activities and events that promote education, health and wellness, and the arts.  To preserve local history through the arts and education.

Mrs. Augusta Savage -Sculptor

Augusta Savage was born February 29, 1892 to Edward and Cornelia (Murphy) Fells. She was raised locally in the historic city of Green Cove Springs, Florida. The family resided on Middleburg Avenue at Lemon Street.

 

From her earliest days, Augusta loved the clay, often choosing to slip off to the Clay County Brickworks, gathering earthen clay to mold into ducks and birds.

 

This is where she discovered her gifts as a sculptor. This was done contrary to her father’s wishes, a Methodist preacher, who believed she was "fashioning graven images.”

 

A struggling artist in the 1920’s, Augusta Savage worked diligently on her art, and she was determined in becoming a serious artist. In the late 20’s, a photo of one of her works, a sculpture of a small black youth, made the cover of Opportunity Magazine. The piece, entitled Gavin, meaning “street urchin”, was a likeness of her nephew, Ellis Ford. That issue of Opportunity Magazine caught the attention of the administrators of the Julian Rosenwald Fund, which in turn granted Savage a scholarship of $1,800 to go abroad and study art in Paris.

 

In 1930, after fulfilling her dream of training within the elite circles of the art community in Europe, she returned to the United States.

 

In 1931 during the Great Depression, she struggled to find work, but did turn out several busts of prominent leaders such as James Weldon Johnson, Fredrick Douglas, and W.C. Handy. Most of her work during that decade focused on education instead of art.

In 1937, Savage won her last significant commission, a sculpture for the 1939 World’s Fair. Using plaster, she created a sculpture entitled “The Harp” depicting numerous black figures singing incorporated into a surreal 16 Ft. Harp. The work was inspired by the “Black National Anthem”-“Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson and John Johnson 1905.

 

The Dunbar High School Complex was built in 1942, and is located on a 5 acre parcel of land in the SE section of Green Cove Springs. Augusta Savage donated the property for the first and only black high school in Green Cove Springs. Her family homestead was where the Dunbar High School Complex is today.