Edward Mitchell Bannister was the first Black American artist to win a national award-a first-prize gold medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. However, the judges did not want to confer this honor when they discovered he was of African descent. Ultimately, Bannister received the distinction, then went on to help build Providence into a New England cultural center. In 1880 he became a founder of and driving force in establishing the Providence Art Club.
Due to Bannister's countless and significant contributions to Providence, Brown University restored his house on Benevolent Street — a street formerly named for a slave trader and now named in honor of Bannister and his philanthropic wife, Christiana. The RISD Museum houses many Bannister works.
Now, working in partnership with the Providence community and its leaders, the Providence Art Club is in support of this fitting tribute of a statue of Edward Mitchell Bannister that will sit at Market Square on the Providence River.
“Sitting on a bench at Market Square, looking out at the Providence River, sketching in his sketchbook, I will capture a moment Edward Bannister repeated countless times in his life. The sculpture and plaque will create an encounter with him where people can sit and pose for pictures, whet their curiosity about his art, and enjoy the wonder and whimsy of imagining who this person was from the past. I want to help elevate him in Providence and beyond.”
— Gage Prentiss, Sculptor of the Bannister Sculpture
Be part of history and help us celebrate Edward Mitchell Bannister by making a contribution to this exciting project.
The Providence Art Club will serve as the Bannister project’s fiscal agent/administrator and will work with like-minded nonprofits, such as RISD, to develop programs that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. This community-wide art project will create a broader platform for community engagement and promote Bannister’s historic role through educational programming, a call for public art, and discussion of a Bannister scholarship.
Donations made payable and sent to Providence Art Club
(fiscal agent for the Bannister Project)
11 Thomas Street, Providence, RI 02903
or online at:
For additional information please contact
Nancy Gaucher-Thomas at (401) 222-0619
See the process of sculptor Gage Prentiss as he explains the creation of the Edward M. Bannister bust that now resides in a position of honor in the Dodge House of the Providence Art Club.