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Sculpting Trailblazer Honored with Cultural Festival in Hometown

JACKSONVILLE FREE PRESS — People flooded Green Cove Spring’s Spring Park to celebrate the life and legacy of Augusta Savage.

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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.

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Art

Poet Laureates Provides Poetry That Heals the Soul

The City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

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The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.
The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.

By Clifford L. Williams

Poetry is a universal language…it’s the song of the heart that feeds the soul.

That was the message shared by five poet laureates from the Bay Area last week at a gathering to introduce the City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores, during an Open Mic event at CoBiz Richmond, in collaboration with Richmond’s Arts and Cultural Commission.

Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

Flores, an 11-year former schoolteacher for the Richmond Unified School District, submitted a few poems and some of his writings to a panel of commissioners last May, who reviewed his work and eventually selected him as the city’s newest poet laureate.

“To me, this is an opportunity to really highlight poetry as an art form accessible to everyone in our city,” said Flores. “I will use this appointment to actively engage young people and adults to allow them the opportunity to not only hear art but to also inspire them to share their work.”

Flores said that since COVID 19, people have been disconnected and now need community bonding to express themselves through art and poetry. “As a poet laureate, I want to grow as an artist and share my work,” said Flores. “It’s fulfilling as a shared humanity to connect and inspire people and a way to spark communication with one another. Once you have that experience, you feel confidence and there’s no going back.”

The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft. Laureates help to bring awareness of poetry and literacy through the arts to their respective communities during their two-year appointments. Each laureate goes through a process involving several steps, outlined by a panel of commissioners, who make the final selections.

“One of the main things we do as poet laureates is to encourage unity within our community through the arts,” said Mitchell. “Our specific responsibilities are to highlight poetry as an outlet to allow people to express themselves.

“As poet laureate, we put on events to encourage our community to become more involved and aware, and to be more unified in bringing awareness, unity, respect and love within the community. Because of the pandemic, we are all trying to figure out our new norm.

“With everything that has been going on for the past two years, I firmly believe it’s important that we as a community, and I as a poet laureate, need to bring harmony back into our lives,” she said. “It is my quest and priority to promote that. We are neighbors, we are friends, we are a community, and we need each other to survive.”

The general public can learn more about their city’s poet laureate events and activities by contacting their Arts and Cultural Commission.

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Mayor London Breed Announces Over $12 Million In Funding for Arts Organizations

Grants for the Arts funding priorities the City’s commitment to economic recovery and community activation by supporting local parades and festivals

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Female Artist Works on Abstract Oil Painting, Moving Paint Brush Energetically She Creates Modern Masterpiece. Dark Creative Studio where Large Canvas Stands on Easel Illuminated. Low Angle Close-up

Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu announced on Monday over $12 million in general operating support grants to fund arts and cultural organizations. This year’s Grants for the Arts (GFTA) funding is primarily dedicated to the general operating support for arts organizations and also aims to support community parades and festivals to help restore the City’s cultural vibrancy and drive its economic recovery.

“We know that the pandemic has been hard on all of us, but it has been especially difficult for our city’s artists and cultural organizations,” said Breed. “The arts are part of what makes San Francisco so special and create an inclusive atmosphere for all who live in and visit our city. During this critical time in our economic recovery, we need to do everything we can to bring back our community festivals that are loved by so many, and support those who contribute to our city’s vibrant culture.”

As president of the Board of Supervisors, Breed spearheaded Proposition E, which was passed by voters in 2018 and allocated 1.5% of hotel tax revenue to the arts. Due to the loss of hotel tax revenues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Breed allocated funding from the General Fund to backfill losses during this year’s budget cycle. Breed’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 also includes $12 million for GFTA to support arts organizations, as well as parades and festivals.

“Cultural festivals and arts have always been an essential part of San Francisco’s vibrant community. They draw people to San Francisco, bring communities together, and in many ways, define our experiences here,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Supporting our arts organizations during these challenging times is key to our City’s recovery.”

The City Administrator manages GFTA, a program that has provided a stable and dependable source for general operating costs to support the City’s arts and cultural organizations since 1961. Since its inception, GFTA has distributed over $400 million to hundreds of arts non-profits and cultural organizations. GFTA funds over 250 arts organizations each fiscal year, including those organizing and supporting parades and festivals throughout the City.

Committed to serving San Francisco’s diverse communities, this is the first year GFTA implemented a funding process that used a strong equity lens to focus on art organizations deeply rooted in and serving diverse populations.

“Having art and cultural events around every corner in the City is why people live here and it’s why people from all over the world visit San Francisco. Art and culture is the soul of San Francisco,” said Vallie Brown, director of Grants for the Arts. “As San Francisco slowly comes out of our long COVID nap, it’s vital that we support our arts organizations and our community’s parades and festivals.”

“Cultural live music and dance has been missing from our community throughout the pandemic,” says Roberto Hernandez, CEO of Carnaval San Francisco. “We appreciate Mayor Breed and Grants for the Arts for providing funding for all communities as we begin to recover and heal.”

In addition to parades and festivals, GFTA funds other essential arts activities, specifically those that capture and reflect the experiences of the City’s diverse communities, including BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and cross-cultural collaborations.

“We are blessed to live in one of the best cities in the world that cares about BIPOC stories, artists, and arts organizations by putting actionable effort into funding them,” says Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., artistic director of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO). SFBATCO is a Black, Latin, Asian-led non-profit organization producing compelling theater that builds community, fosters cross-cultural dialogue, and promotes social justice.

A complete list of GFTA’s Fiscal Year 2022 grants can be found here.

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Art

Healing Through Art at West Oakland’s Alena Museum

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

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The Alena Museum/Photo Courtesy of Alena Museum Facebook

Development has come at the cost of Black health, land ownership and belonging.

The Alena Museum in Oakland gives African American residents a way to heal through the medium of art “by providing critical, safe spaces for the African diaspora the Black community can express and cultivate their cultural identity in the face of gentrification. 

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

Through the group’s public art activism, they teach cultural preservation and cultivation with an Afrofuturism ownership model to promote cultural equity with the goal to reclaim urban landscape and gain creative control in real estate development. Through restorative justice art, the Alena Museum educates the community on urban planning; how it works and how to become involved. 

The Alena Museum’s most recent project, “Magnolia Street” began in March of 2020. According to the website, “Magnolia Street is an experiential installation following Alena Museum’s land libration journey. From holding space for African Diaspora creatives, to confronting gentrification in practice, the story of Magnolia Street channels the spirit of Oakland’s Black Resistance movement into the present through Alena Museum’s eyes. Our story roots Black Power into any land we activate, including this one.”

The Alena Museum was evicted from their 8th Street site in West Oakland and is now located at 2725 Magnolia St, Oakland, CA 94607. 

If you would like to reach out to the Alena Museum you can email them at info@alenamuseum.org. To check out the latest, visit them on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to support their vision, visit the support page.

Information in this article was sourced from the Alena Museum website. 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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