The Story Behind This Weekend’s Edward Mitchell Bannister Statue Unveiling

After a year of painstaking work, the bronze sculpture will be dedicated during PVDFest on September 10.

Prentiss’ wax sculpture pictured in his Pawtucket studio prior to casting. Photograph courtesy of Gage Prentiss.

Gage Prentiss has his wife to thank for his latest project. The Pawtucket sculptor was working on a design for the North Burial Ground bus shelter when his wife, Rhode Island Historical Society Executive Director C. Morgan Grefe, suggested incorporating an image of Providence artist Edward Mitchell Bannister. “You ever just kind of meet somebody and you’re immediately drawn to them, their charisma, their presence, and the more you find out about them and their life, the more enamored you become? That’s what happened to me with Edward Bannister,” Prentiss says. The discovery sparked a years-long fascination with the artist who, much like Prentiss, was supported throughout his career by a respected wife named Christiana (Grefe prefers her middle name). In 2021, a group spearheaded by the Providence Art Club commissioned Prentiss to create a statue of Bannister sketching on a bench at Market Square, a route he would have walked daily. After a year of painstaking work, the completed wax sculpture was cast in bronze and will be dedicated during the PVDFest festivities on Sept. 10. “I want people to find his art by finding him. If I could bring just a fraction of Bannister’s presence to people in the city, then I’ll feel totally successful,” Prentiss says. The following month, Stages of Freedom will dedicate a plaque to Christiana Carteaux Bannister outside the organization’s headquarters just across the river, uniting the devoted couple in their commemorations. The statue dedication on Sept. 10 begins with a parade from the Providence Pedestrian Bridge at 11:45 a.m. The Christiana Carteaux Bannister plaque dedication takes place Oct. 8 at 10 a.m. at Stages of Freedom, 10 Westminster St., Providence.