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Fine Arts Program

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Phone  (850) 599-3161

Fine Arts Program
Foster-Tanner Fine Arts Center
1630 Pinder Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32307

The Visual Arts program has a long, proud history as part of FAMU.

Augusta Savage (1892-1962) was one of the most influential artists in the Harlem Renaissance. After a year at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (now FAMU), Savage was recommended by the superintendent of the county fair where she'd won her first prize to study art in New York. She then moved to New York to attend Cooper Union to further her studies. During the 1930s, she was well known in Harlem as a sculptor, art teacher, and community art program director. Gamin, an informal bust portrait of her nephew, won her a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship to study in Paris in 1929. In 1931, she received a Carnegie Foundation grant for eight months of travel in France, Belgium and Germany. In 1934, she became the first African-American member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. She was appointed the first director of the WPA-funded Harlem Community Art Center in 1937. Shortly thereafter, Savage received a commission by the New York World's Fair of 1939 to create a sculpture symbolizing the musical contributions of African Americans.

Samella Lewis (b. 1924) is a successful artist and promoter of African-American artists through her teaching, writing and documentary film The Black Artists. She earned her Ph.D. in art history and cultural anthropology from Ohio State University in 1951. Two years later, she established the Department of Art at FAMU where she remained as a teacher and administrator until 1958. She went on to teach at the State University of New York and Scripps College in California. In 1970, Lewis and artist/actor Bernie Casey founded the Contemporary Crafts Gallery in Los Angeles. It was mainly an exhibition space for artists of color and facilitated the production of inexpensive prints for working-class patrons. Her works relate to the civil rights and liberation movement.

Since 1955, the Department of Art, now the Visual Arts program, has been educating some of the best art professionals in the country. Following Lewis, a number of program heads of helped to continue the program and expand upon its offerings. In 2017, the Visual Arts received a donation of 155 works of African art establishing a permanent collection of African and Diaspora art to inspire and educate the FAMU and Tallahassee communities.