The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Head Girl Ashley E. Remer on #HerStory Podcast



Here at Girl Museum, we're interested in girls of all ages, from all generations, and from all places (you might know that already). Well, Rebecca Price over at Chick History feels much the same. She created Chick History to explore and share the stories of women throughout history, "to find new and interesting ways to tell the stories of women's roles and contributions to history; always overlooked, often watered-down, and sometimes all-together edited out." 

Over the course of this year, Chick History is telling the stories of 52 women through the podcast #HerStory. #HerStory is a project for 2012 in which each week, a contemporary woman shares the story of a historical woman who inspires her. Hear elected officials, academics, mothers, filmmakers, authors, activists, CEO’s, and more provide a snapshot of these women’s lives, from the headliners to the lesser-known gems.

As Rebecca says, "Chick History is a place to come together and (re)learn about all the cool things chicks have done that, like the dishes, otherwise might go unnoticed."

We're all for leaving the dishes undone ourselves, so instead of doing the washing up, visit #HerStory and listen to contemporary women tell the stories of the historical women who have inspired them. On this week's podcast, listen to our own Head Girl, Ashley E. Remer, talk about one of her heroines, sculptor Augusta Savage.

Augusta Savage with her sculpture Realization (1938)
Photograph by Andrew Herman
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Augusta Savage was born in Florida in 1892 and, despite her father's wishes--he was a preacher who interpreted the concept of graven images literally--began sculpting in clay at a young age. She persevered, however, and her father relented after seeing a sculpture she made of the Virgin Mary. Wanting to pursue sculpting professionally, Savage ultimately moved to New York, where she studied art at Cooper Union and was chosen to participate in a summer program in France. She was rejected by the judging panel, however, because she was black. Though she publicized the incident their decision was not reversed. The one committee member who did support her, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, invited Savage to study with him.

Over the years, Augusta Savage continued to fight for equal rights and became one of the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. The social and political causes she espoused brought about the realization of many opportunities for black artists and the Harlem community at large. She was adored in the Harlem community both as a talented artist and dedicated teacher, selflessly ignoring her own work to mentor gifted children. She was appointed director of the Harlem Community Arts Center, an institution founded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). From this position, she highlighted racial bias in the hiring practices of the WPA, and successfully gained the inclusion of black artists in WPA projects.

Augusta Savage's Gamin (1929)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Benjamin and Olya Margolin

Though she sculpted busts of leading black figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, one of her most famous works is Gamin, on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Unfortunately, most of Augusta Savage's works are not available as they were never cast in durable materials (bronze was expensive) and they were either lost or destroyed. This includes one of her major works, The Harp (originally titled Lift Every Voice and Sing, after the James Weldon and Rosamund Johnson song of the same name), which was commissioned for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Augusta Savage's Lift Every Voice and Sing (1939)
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten
James Weldon Johnson Papers

For more information on Augusta Savage and to view more of her work, visit the following links:

Visit Chick History's #HerStory blog and podcast here, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes here.

1 comment:

  1. Enchanted by this story and its telling by my friend Ashley. So happy to be able to see some pictures of Augusta Savage's work after listening to her story on Chick History. It must have been devastating to see her gorgeous works destroyed. She would be proud that her spirit lives on and is an inspiration to wonderful women like Ashley Remer; and now, because of Chick History and Girl Museum, to many others including myself.

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