Bannister Community Art Project

Inside the Sculptor's Studio

Edward Mitchell Bannister was a noted Providence artist, philanthropist, intellectual and personality during the latter part of the 19th Century. After he won a national award—a First Prize at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition—his honor was withheld when jurors learned of his African heritage. His artistic talent prevailed, however, and he not only received the award but went on to help build Providence into a New England cultural center. In 1880 he became a driving force in establishing the Providence Art Club.

Due to Bannister's many significant contributions to Providence, Brown University restored his house on Benevolent Street. Another street, formerly named for a slave trader, was renamed 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 helping lead another fitting tribute to the artist: a bronze statue of him that will sit at Market Square on the Providence River.

Collection of the Newport Historical Society 

“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

About the Sculptor

Gage Prentiss

Gage is a sculptor and painter living and working in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Boston University in 1999, and has been exploring the feelings of place, presence and wonder through his art ever since. When he began as an artist, he was driven to make tangible objects from things experienced in dreams, to make the presence in his head stand in the room. Gage worked figuratively using the rich language of human gesture, nuance, balance and context to say a lot with very little. These figures usually broke down or transformed in different ways to capture a revolving sense of beauty and repulsiveness in the protean dualities of dream logic.

He explored himself and the world through the fun-house lens of his subconscious with welded steel, plaster, and resin. It wasn’t till Gage moved to Rhode Island that he really began to feel a deep sense of place. This gave him a new artistic drive and inspired him to capture the vistas, ghosts, and personalities around the State. Most recently, Gage created a bust of E.M. Bannister that was gifted to the Providence Art Club and is on exhibit in the Founder’s Room.

The original of these pages on the Bannister Community Project can be found at the Providence Art Club Website.