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Augusta Savage: Harp Restoration

As part of our DVD outreach, a spirited effort to rebuild Augusta Savage’s famous sculpture “The Harp” has emerged in tribute to the artist’s life and work. The story of Savage and her work is shown in the film and detailed in the bonus feature “Augusta Savage.”

A Rosenwald Fund recipient, Savage created her famous sculpture known as The Harp, which appeared at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The design was strongly influenced by James Weldon Johnson’s venerable song Lift Every Voice
and Sing. It was the most popular work at the fair, but even after such noted exposure, Savage did not have the means to bring the monumental work back to her studio and it was tragically destroyed. What was a true accomplishment in Savage’s career would result in disaster.

The destruction of Savage’s signature piece has denied America a historically and artistically significant work. Therefore, the Ciesla Foundation is dedicated to restoring the sculpture to the American landscape.

We are researching the prospect of creating full-scale replicas of “The Harp” and securing prominent venues to exhibit the work, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Such a gesture would be a nod to Savage’s work and legacy and restore a dream. Director Aviva Kempner wrote about Savage’s story in the article, “As Confederate Statues Fall, What Should Replace Them?” for The New York Times (11/29/2017). To read the piece, click here.

The New York Times also published a review celebrating a recent exhibit of Savage’s art. To read that piece, click here.

Dr. Jeffreen Hayes, Executive Director, Threewalls

Challenging and difficult issues such as race and class are not easy to discuss in words. But marginalized artists and creatives—those placed in the margins based on their racial, ethnic, or sexual identity—can have a profound sense of such issues, in part because they are so deeply affected by them.

The life of Harlem Renaissance artist Augusta Savage illustrates this principle. Savage was a working artist, arts educator, and organizer during a time—the Great Depression and World War II—when being an artist, Black, and a woman presented challenges to one’s survival. But her legacy, both as a public intellectual and a pioneering artist, continues into the 21st century. Jeffreen asserts that examining and re-examining the role of artists and creatives as public intellectuals adds a different perspective on our culture’s most polarizing topics. Jeffreen M. Hayes, a trained art historian and curator, merges administrative, curatorial, and academic practices into her cultural practice of supporting artists and community development. As an advocate for racial inclusion, equity, and access, Jeffreen has developed a curatorial and leadership approach that invites community participation, particularly those in marginalized communities. Her curatorial projects include Intimate Interiors (2012), Etched in Collective History (2013), SILOS (2016), Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman (2018), and Process (2019). Additionally, she is a guest curator for Artpace San Antonio’s International Artist-in-Residence program. Jeffreen is the Executive Director of Threewalls, a Chicago-based organization that brings segregated communities, people, and experiences together through art. Under her leadership, Threewalls intentionally develops artistic platforms that encourage connections beyond traditional engagements with art.

Jeffreen earned a Ph.D in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, a Masters in Art History from Howard University, and a BA from Florida International University in Humanities. She has worked at several museums and cultural institutions including Birmingham Museum of Art, Hampton University Museum, Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art. Jeffreen held fellowships at Ithaca College in the Art History department and in the Cartoon and Caricature Division at Library of Congress as a Swann Foundation Fellow. Jeffreen is a Chief Executive Community and Culture Fellow alum, a program facilitated by National Arts Strategies.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Rosenwald Film Bonus: Teaching Guide