Thirty years ago, the Department of Afro American Studies had the foresight to create a visual arts gallery. On the heels of the Civil Rights movement, and as a result of tremendous national student dissent, Augusta Savage Gallery, the oldest gallery on the UMass campus, was born. Its founders, including UMass professors Femi Richards and Nelson Stevens, recognized that the arts were central to any conception of culture. In its early phases, the gallery served as a place where people of African descent could exhibit their works, share their ideas, and experience the inspirational support of colleagues. At that time it was difficult to find Black art represented in commercial galleries and other academic spaces, so the gallery was truly an oasis of culture for this community.
Though some important changes in the gallery's mission, visibility, and physical appearance through the years, Augusta Savage Gallery has remained grounded in the integrity of the founders' dreams and their desire to see underrepresented ethnic groups viewed on their own terms.
This year marks a very exiting milestone for us: the gallery's thirtieth birthday. And while the gallery continues to offer many new opportunities for students and community members, Augusta Savage is run by a two-woman show. Amy Corey, the gallery manager, coordinates everything from poster design to student staff to our semi-annual BFA shows, and, in my eighth year as the director, I'm honored to continue dreaming with the gallery's founders. In this stage of our maturity, Augusta Savage Gallery has become a second home for many artists of diverse cultural backgrounds both locally and nationally. It has also evolved from a visual arts gallery to a space that hosts performances, dance demonstrations, and poetry readings in addition to visual art. Overall, Augusta Savage Gallery has become an "alternative space" where artists are supported and community members highly valued.
This year's celebratory scheduling will include both artists with whom we have worked in the past as well as new friends. Located in an intimate space, our vision remains mighty! And given the fact that there are no admission fees charged for any of the gallery's events, what this gallery offers is certainly a gift.
n Admission to Augusta Savage Gallery is free. For more information, call 545-5177.
Augusta Savage Gallery is located in New Africa House near the University Health Services at UMass, Amherst. It is accessible to the physically challenged with an entrance at the rear of the building. Gallery Hours are Monday and Tuesday from 1 to 7, Wednesday through Friday from 1 to 5. This program is funded in part by the University Arts Council.