Photoshop rendering by sculptor Gage Prentiss

Photoshop rendering by sculptor Gage Prentiss of a life-size sculpture that will be installed in Market Square. Photo courtesy Providence Art Club

PROVIDENCE — The Providence Art Club, the second-oldest art club in the nation, has announced that its newest initiative, the Bannister Community Art Project, recognizes and celebrates the legacy of Edward Mitchell Bannister, a prominent late-19th-century artist of African heritage and one of the founders of the Art Club.

The program kicks off by creating a public monument that will celebrate Bannister’s significant role in the history of Providence’s proud cultural and artistic community: a bronze sculpture of Bannister sitting on a bench, sketchbook in hand, created by the artist Gage Prentiss. The work will overlook the Providence River in front of Market Square and is scheduled for installation in June 2023.

Bannister played an essential role during his life in Providence. He spent the last 25 years of his life building the city into a New England cultural center in his work as an artist and as a philanthropist, abolitionist, and thinker. The Bannister Community Art Project intends to develop meaningful programs and opportunities that advance diversity, inclusion, and equity among artists and within the community.

Shawn Kenney, president of the Providence Art Club, said, “The Bannister Community Art Project affords us with a unique opportunity to help build and strengthen community goodwill by honoring Mr. Bannister and acknowledging his important role in our 143-year history.” He continued, “We intend to ‘reclaim our roots’ by fostering diversity and cross-cultural relationships, creating new educational programs, issuing calls for public art, and establishing a Bannister scholarship.”

Currently, the Art Club is hosting a series of town halls in collaboration with other non-profit organizations to welcome and encourage community involvement. The Art Club draws from these open forums to help develop educational programs, create open calls for public art, and establish an art scholarship.

“Our Town Halls have brought together artists, community activists, historians, and community leaders,” said Nancy Gaucher-Thomas, co-chair of the Bannister Project Committee. She added, “Working with my Co-Chair, Jennifer Davis-Allison, we have garnered an amazing group that will continue to help us in our outreach efforts and our mission to cultivate education, arts and culture. It’s a true celebration and acknowledgment of the Art Club’s roots.”

To date, numerous organizations in addition to the Providence Art Club have provided support and are helping advance The Bannister Community Art Project, including the City of Providence, the Papitto Opportunity Connection, Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence Media, Stages of Freedom, Trinity Academy of the Performing Arts, Rhode Island School of Design and John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities.

For more information, visit 

— Nancy Burns-Fusaro

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