Arts preview: Murals celebrate Harlem Renaissance

Jim Fischer
Columbus Alive
“Exodusters” mural by Antoinette Savage

“Exodusters” was a term referencing the significant number of African-Americans who migrated north along the Mississippi River to Kansas following the Civil War. This one particular “exodus” movement was part of the larger post-war migration that led to the establishment of black communities throughout the Northern States and, ultimately, to the explosion of culture and creativity that became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Columbus artist Antoinette Savage pays tribute to the migration in her mural “Exodusters,” which is part of a new series of murals in the Short North Arts District making their debut this weekend during August Gallery Hop. Savage's piece is one of 12 installed throughout the Short North as part of “I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100,” a city-wide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance. Each muralist will have work featured at a Short North gallery, as well.

Savage, a self-taught doll maker, sculptor and collage artist, will show a new collection of dolls, titled, “Memories: The Fabric of Our Lives,” at Lindsay Gallery. A native of Columbus' Flytown neighborhood, Savage now lives on the East Side in South of Main. She began her art career in earnest after a friend introduced her to Aminah Robinson, who surprisingly held up a doll Savage had given her during a talk at the Columbus Museum of Art.

“[The mural's] focus is about what brought about the Harlem Renaissance,” Savage said in a phone interview, “and my show is about capturing human-ness with dignity and grace. My pieces all talk to me, and I give them all names. These are the stories my ancestors want me to tell. It's a blessing.”

Each Short North gallery is partnered with a local black artist. Artists will be featured in the galleries from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, with live performances planned at several of the murals beginning at 6 p.m. The Tapestry Performing Arts Company will present original choreography at Savage's mural at 921 N. High St.

Other artists featured include Debbie Jackson, Edmund Boateng, Omar Shaheed, Richard Duarte Brown, Terry Norman, Annie Chrissy Burley, Cameron Granger, April Sunami, Malcolm J, Bee1ne and Marshall Shorts. (Mason Pryor will perform at Terry Norman's mural of Pryor's father, Richard, at 685 N. High St.)

“As we took a look at what we do and how we might be a part of the [‘I, Too, Sing America' series], we thought the temporary mural series was a perfect fit,” said Short North Arts District Executive Director Betsy Pandora.

The murals will remain up for a year.

Short North Arts District

4-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4