In every correspondence, Steve Prince makes sure to sign his emails with a simple but effective “peace”. Prince is the Muscarelle Museum of Art’s Director of Engagement and Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and has dedicated his entire career cultivating and connecting with diverse communities through art and education. Besides his impressive portfolio, Prince is an individual who perfectly personifies the intersection between passion and purpose.
” I do what I want have been doing since I was five, ”Prince said. “I didn’t do anything outside my field, I didn’t hold any work that was not related to art. Everything is art to me.
A notable aspect of Prince is his adopted title of “art evangelist”. The term was first coined 10 years ago by Prince’s friend, Phil Schaasfma. Prince has made it clear that he embraces the term with the utmost humility. Similar to the Evangelists in the Bible, Prince’s unique approach to art takes the form of storytelling as a way to connect with people, especially when he addresses themes of race, reconciliation, and love. healing. His work presents a story that goes beyond a simple image, and he travels the world to share the message within his art.
“I believe my work, skills and gifts that I have as an artist are inspired by God,” Prince said. “When I think of this idea of being an art evangelist, it’s not something light and cowardly to say. It’s something that I take very seriously and is an integral part of who I am as a person. My concern for the community is illustrated by this title.
“When I think of this idea of being an art evangelist, it’s not something light and cowardly to say. It’s something that I take very seriously and is an integral part of who I am as a person. My concern for the community is illustrated by this title.
In addition to his faith, much of Prince’s artistic inspiration comes from New Orleans, Louisiana, his hometown.
“There’s something about the house, there’s something about the sounds, the smells, these things that go back to the earliest foundations of your childhood,” Prince said. “I haven’t been to any place that looks like New Orleans. There are places I have been that remind me of my home, but no place is like the house I grew up in or the yard I played in.
For Prince, New Orleans is filled with nostalgia, an idea that many students leaving home for the first time can relate to.
As Director of Engagement, Prince oversees education outreach. He interacts with a range of people from elementary school students to adults. Prince is the voice of the museum, drawing people in through educational experiences, particularly around art and artistic creation. For example, before our discussion, Prince spent the morning teaching a business school on creative problem solving. The Zoom era gave Prince greater access to education programs that stretch outside the greater Williamsburg community.
“The beauty of Zoom is now that I’m international,” Prince said. “I I can go anywhere and teach all age groups, it’s just that I can’t look over the student’s shoulder and give them a one-on-one, but I’m doing my best to create an authentic setting.
One of Prince’s rooms is located on campus on the first floor of the Early Gregg Swem Library. In 2017, Prince hosted a month-long art program with 12 students aged 18 to 70. The final piece titled “Lemonade: A Picture of America” was produced for the 50th anniversary of the first African American students in residence at the College.
“We were in Andrews for a month every day for four to five hours a day,” Prince said. “The students participated in all aspects of the mural”
On the first day, Prince randomly matched all the students in the class with someone they didn’t know. They were then tasked with creating plaster masks of their partner’s face.
“I have done my best to create space to say that not only is this class safe, but I will protect you and I will not do anything. go hurt you the best I can ”, Prince said. “We all create a system of equal trust between us. ”
Prince explained that the biggest day came halfway through the program when the three women who were the college’s first African-American students in residence visited the studio and spoke with the attendees. Each student then had the opportunity to witness the creation of a plaster mask of them
“I sat the three women in high chairs and each student touched the women’s faces and put a piece of plaster on,” Prince said.aid. “Then we took some wax out and put it in molds, and then we poured bronze in it. The three masks at the bottom of the fresco are their real faces. We did not do any other manipulation “
All the other masks on the mural were a joint collaborationbetween the pairings made at the start of the program. The collaboration aimed to mix the stories of the two participants to tell a singular story.
“Now the partners are connected for life, their stories are shared in the making of that piece, ”Prince said. “This is the way of working together where we can break down those barriers and overcome stereotypes, that we can truly cultivate a relationship based on truth, beyond the surface of this mask.”
“their stories are shared in the making of that piece. This is the way of working together where we can break down those barriers and overcome stereotypes, that we can truly cultivate a relationship based on truth, beyond the surface of this mask.
The themes of reconciliation and healing also play an important role in Prince’s work. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved people to the United States at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia, Prince created the “Links” project which is on permanent display at the Sadler Center. This colossal piece is made up of puzzle pieces with a yellow chain link flowing down the middle. Prince worked with over 500 people for six months in 20 countries. Each piece of the puzzle contains the name, location and age of each participant.
“We have created around thirty worksstores and each person made their individual jigsaw puzzle piece, and then we put all of those pieces together around this chain link pattern that is a symbol of our inextricable bond, ”Prince said.
The project culminated in a festival outside the Sir Christopher Wren building, where a steam roller was used to print the final image. All these pieces were then brought back to the museum and were part of the exhibition titled “1619, 2019.La Muscarelle then bought several of the pieces presented in the show. Prince explained that this was done in an attempt to “further enrich the collection so that it more reflects the diversity not only of the campus, but also of the diversity of our nation.”
Prince is an artist in perpetual motion, and his work shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Just this week, Prince participated in the launch of a new project in association with the “Cultural Arts Experience” program run by the Greater Williamsburg Women’s Association. In a joint collaboration, Prince and GWWA developed a project called “Art in a Box” for middle school students.
“We put together art supplies, fact sheets on a few artists in the Museum’s collection,” Prince said. “We sent art supplies and information to the children and asked them to create a work of art thinking of the stylistic work of these two artists while also thinking of creating an original piece that speaks of this time that we let’s cross right now. “
All submitted parts have been documented digicount and will be presented in a virtual exhibition through the muscarelle Museum.
In addition to his work with the muscarelle, Prince is also working on a personal project with his betrothed titled “Nine” which serves as a tribute to Little Rock Nine. Prince is now preparing for a nationwide tour that will visit Richmond, San Antonio, Denver and New Orleans from 2022.
In his final thoughts, Prince offered advice to any youngster who also wishes to pursue a career in the arts.
“First of all, do as much research as you can on the ground,” Prince said. “Second, it’s about building community and finding people who follow similar paths to you. These people can provide role models for you to follow. What is essential is not to try to be them. Your voice is cultivated by seeing, learning and acting. I also encourage practicing your craft, you can’t just talk about the job you have to do, you have to actually do it. The best teacher is practice. Then those doors and opportunities will begin to open. When those doors open, don’t be surprised, don’t walk through the door believing you are unqualified. Get past thoughts of self-doubt, then walk through the door when it opens, not arrogantly but with the confidence that you know you’ll do the job well.