By Kennedi Holder
People flooded Green Cove Spring’s Spring Park to celebrate the life and legacy of Augusta Savage Saturday afternoon. The 2nd Annual Augusta Savage Cultural Festival, presented by Friends of Augusta Savage Inc., and co-sponsored by City of Green Cove Springs, commemorates the mark left on the city by on of their own. Entertainment included musical performances by U.S. Navy Band Jazz Combo, Clay High School Drum Line, and Southern Gospel trio Heart’s Desire. Guests were also treated to the Afri-Touch Fashion Show and a presentation of West African culture by Kreative Kids and Beyond Inc., a non-profit organization focused on bringing awareness and appreciation to the cultural arts.
Green Cove Springs Mayor Constance Butler greeted the crowd and spoke on the importance of gatherings like the festival. “Like the song says, let’s give them something to talk about,” Butler said. ”We have a fashion show, we have books, we have more history, so enjoy this day.” Friends of Augusta Savage Inc. President Henrietta Francis recounted Savage’s life as a native of Green Cove Springs and her career as a prominent sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance. “We celebrate because a little black girl from Green Cove Springs walked these roads, attended Mount Zion, attended the local schools,” Francis said.
Attendees visited exhibits and supported local vendors, educating themselves on Savage and her famous artworks. “Her life, work, and legacy have had a broad and enduring impact on African-American and American art,” Francis said. “We celebrate because she had an innate talent that she would not let die.” The majority of Savage’s works were created in the first half of the 20th-century, a time where segregation and discrimination was widespread in the United States. “She was a black woman who created strategies to help her community find within themselves the strength to live, strive, and thrive in a country that enforced boundaries.”
Despite the several obstacles she faced as a result of her race and gender, Savage did experience great successes in her career. In 1934, Savage became the first African-American artist to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Savage died in 1962 at the age of 70 after succumbing to cancer.
But her legacy is still very much alive. “She blazed a trail that we are still traveling,” Francis said.
Those not in attendance Saturday can take a trip to the Cummer Museum and visit their Augusta Savage exhibition until April 7th.
This article originally appeared in the Jacksonville Free Press.