Harlem Artists Guild

The Harlem Artists Guild (1935–41) was an African-American organization founded by artists including Augusta Savage, Charles Alston, Elba Lightfoot and bibliophile Arthur Schomburg[1] with the aims of encouraging young talent, providing a forum for the discussion of the visual arts in the community, fostering understanding between artists and the public through education towards an appreciation of art, focusing on issues of general concern to Black artists such as racism, poverty and unemployment, and cooperating with agencies to improve conditions and raise standards of living and achievement among African-American artists.[2][3] It is said to have had its origins in the dissatisfaction of African-American artists with the activities of the Harmon Foundation,[4] and was described by co-founder Alston as "a pressure group to get more black artists on the federal projects."[2]


Formed in early 1935 by artists including Augusta Savage, Charles Alston and Elba Lightfoot, the Harlem Artists Guild (HAG) had headquarters on 136th Street, New York. HWG strategies included pressurizing the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration to accept more African-American participants.[2] The constitution on the Guild stated in part: "We, the artists of Harlem, being aware of the need to act collectively in the solution of the cultural, economic, social and professional problems that confront us, do hereby constitute ourselves an organization that shall be known as the Harlem Artists Guild."[3] Members included Romare Bearden,[5] Gwendolyn Bennett, Aaron Douglas, Norman Lewis, and some others; by 1937 the membership had grown to about 90 and the Guild was putting on exhibitions that included Jacob Lawrence.[3]

From discussions among HAG artists about the necessity for, and ways to bring about, the establishment of a permanent art center for Harlem came the idea for the Harlem Community Art Center, which opened at the end of 1937.[6][7] The Harlem Artists Guild became an integral part of the Center, holding its meetings there and shows by members.[8]


  1. ^ Sharon F. Patton, "Negro art organizations", African-American Art, Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 147.
  2. ^ a b c Wintz, Carrie D.; Paul Finkelman, eds. (2004). "Second Harlem Renaissance". Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. 1. New York: Routledge. p. 1100. ISBN 0-203-31930-3. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Harlem Artists Guild", Harlem’s Artistic Community in the 1930s", p. 26.
  4. ^ Mary Ann Calo, Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920-40, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007, pp. 95–97.
  5. ^ "Artists of the Harlem Renaissance", Archives of American Art, Thursday, February 17, 2011.
  6. ^ Gwendolyn Bennett, "The Harlem Community Art Center", Federal Art Project Documents.
  7. ^ Stacy I. Morgan, Rethinking Social Realism: African American Art and Literature, 1930-1953, University of Georgia Press, 2004, p. 30.
  8. ^ James H. Baker, Jr., "Art Comes to the People of Harlem", The Crisis, March 1939, p. 79.