Jax library sees opportunity in Augusta Savage artwork

Kile Brewer
Posted 8/9/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After finding an archived piece of Green Cove Springs history, the Jacksonville Public Library is looking to partner with the city to promote one of their most famous former …

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Jax library sees opportunity in Augusta Savage artwork

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After finding an archived piece of Green Cove Springs history, the Jacksonville Public Library is looking to partner with the city to promote one of their most famous former residents.

In June, the Jacksonville library system’s headquarters branch unveiled a sculpture that had been in their archives for years. The piece was an original work by Green Cove Springs-bred artist Augusta Savage, and has been permanently added to the library’s display in the Special Collections Department.

City representatives attended the unveiling, including Vice Mayor Connie Butler and resident Henriette Francis. As a result of the event, Butler and Francis have been in communication with Brenda R. Simmons-Hutchins, a member of the library’s Board of Trustees, who has offered to partner with the city as it moves forward with their work on the Augusta Savage Arts Community Center library and museum.

“There are still a lot of people who don’t know who Augusta Savage was, they don’t know her history,” Butler said at a recent City Council meeting. “I was an adult before I really knew who Augusta Savage was, and it was kind of embarrassing in a way because I live right here.”

Through a partnership, the two entities would work together to share the story of Savage and her art, according to a presentation by Butler at the city council meeting.

“I think the library is going to be the perfect spot, at least at some point, to showcase some of this,” council member Van Royal said. “It’s a great synergy. I love what they did downtown.”

In addition to talks of the partnership with the Jacksonville library, Butler also mentioned a festival that was historically held in Spring Park in Savage’s honor. She provided a flier from the 1993 festival, the last recorded date of the Augusta F. Savage Cultural Arts Festival. The festival’s former director, Eugene Francis, approached Butler about bringing the celebration back and has even volunteered himself to once again chair the event.

Following the presentation, City Manager Danielle Judd voiced support for bringing back the event, but not as a standalone celebration.

“My only request is that we not take on another festival,” Judd said. “I’m hoping we can weave this in [with] CalaVida.”

Other council members spoke on the subject, agreeing with Judd that CalaVida Arts Festival would be a great time to honor Savage as part of their already well-attended and managed event. Royal added that he would like to see this festival brought back, but not as a city-run festival. At the end of the discussion the council decided to push for the partnership with the Jacksonville library and the festival, even offering the potential for allowing the festival to branch out into its own event again.

“I want to get the spark out to others in the community to let them know that this lady was somebody and she was something special,” Butler said. “And she’s from Green Cove Springs.”

Born in 1892 as Augusta Christine Fells, Savage attended Cooper Union in New York City and went on to play a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance. She later served as a director for the Harlem Community Center and created the monumental work The Harp for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. She died of cancer in 1962 in Saugerties, New York.

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