Who We Are
The Bannister Gallery was established in 1978 in honor of Edward Mitchell Bannister, a notable nineteenth-century African American artist. Edward Mitchell Bannister was a prominent member of the Providence art community and was the founder of the Providence Art Club.
Located In Rhode Island Colleges Roberts Hall, the Bannister Gallery presents a yearly calendar of 8-10 exhibitions by local, regional, and internationally renowned artists. The Gallery aims to present a diverse set of art that ranges from traditional media, painting and sculpture, to more contemporary formats including photography, graphic design and digital media.
The exhibits are selected by the Bannister Gallery Committee panel which is made up of the Bannister Gallery Director and members of the Art Department Faculty. The Bannister Gallery strives to create an inclusive environment for the public with the aim to builds relationships within the art community of Rhode Island.
Gallery History: Memory and Momentum
The Gallery was dedicated in 1978 in honor of Edward Mitchell Bannister, a noted 19th century African American artist who was also influential in the society and culture of the Providence community of his time. Bannister is a significant figure in the history of American Landscape painting and in the annals of social progress in this country for African Americans and other historically marginalized peoples. This link to Bannister's biography tells this story.
Exhibitions of fine art at RIC actually pre-date this 25 year period somewhat. Prior to 1978, exhibitions were presented at the Adams Library for at least 5 years. The year 1977-78 marks the construction of first real 'Gallery' as a purpose - built facility, with high quality track lighting, plywood lined walls, and its striking black tile floor.
With a view to the spirit of the late 1970's, the inception of the gallery as the first such full-time exhibition space at RIC came at a turning point in American culture and education in general. Following upon decades of traumatic civil, racial, and military strife - the assassination of the Kennedy's and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the widespread race riots, the angst and tumult of the Vietnam War, the rise of the Counter Culture - the establishment of the gallery signified not only a new commitment to the value of visual arts at the College but also, in its dedication to Bannister, parallels a time where the wider culture acknowledged a more complex and inclusive vision of history, culture and values.
This social change was also reflected within the art world and broader visual culture; as contemporary artists in general enjoyed greater freedoms and credibility.The spirit of the times was not specific to redressing the rights and recognition of African-Americans alone, but to the rights and freedom of expression of all people, and echoed the egalitarian spirit of Bannister's Providence of a century before, which similarly - followed the tumult and divisiveness of a (the) Civil War.