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HomeNewsLocal newsRemembering Anselm Richards: Artist, Educator, Athlete

Remembering Anselm Richards: Artist, Educator, Athlete

A celebration of the life of Anselm Richards opened at the “Leaving A Legacy” exhibition at the Cane Roots Art Gallery on Thursday, Nov. 10 and will remain until the closing on Nov. 30. Many of Anselm’s friends, colleagues, and students have shared their experiences with the late artist and educator. Their remembrances about Richards will be printed and posted at the exhibition.

Anselm Richards was born Nov. 4, 1951, in Puerto Rico to Crucian parents, Anselm and Beaulah Richards. He died on December 19, 2012. His father was in the military and stationed at Ft. Buchanon, PR. Anselm and his brother Vargrave and sister Denise lived with their parents on the island of Puerto Rico until around 1955. Their mother migrated back to St. Croix with the children and their father migrated to New York City. Anselm moved shortly afterward to live with his father in NYC, while his siblings stayed on St. Croix to live with their mother.

Cross-country run at UVI with Anselm Richards (front) and Willard John (left). (Photo submitted by Wallace Williams)

According to Vargrave, Anselm spent his entire school years in NYC. “He was a ‘hell’ of a track runner and was a long-distance runner for the school he attended.” Our father said Anselm had this “thing” for art and developed it throughout his youth, Vargrave added.

Anselm earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. He was a U.S. Virgin Islands Morris DeCastro Fellowship scholar and advanced his studies at Pratt Institute in New York. He returned to St. Croix in the mid-1970s and made the Virgin Islands his home.

He was recognized in the community as an artist but truly found his niche as an art educator. He taught art at Good Hope School [now Good Hope Country Day School], Elena Christian Junior High, and finally, at St. Croix Central High School. His last position held within the Department of Education was State Director of Fine Arts. 

“Although we did not grow up together, our young adult years brought us close again,” Vargrave said. “He was a wonderful brother, and we had a lot of fun traveling together. We traveled many times during the summers following St. Croix basketball legend Tim Duncan to Los Angeles, San Antonio and Florida — buying tickets that were priced well above our means as educators,” Vargrave said with a chuckle.

Anselm introduced his brother to his former students, one of whom was very successful as the window designer for Bloomingdale’s Department Store in New York City. Vargrave met another [former student] who was a professional athletic shoe designer and another who excelled in extraordinary fashion design. These students would not be where they were if not for Anselm’s teaching abilities, Vargrave said.

Vargrave alluded to Anselm as a ‘doting father” and to his devotion to his daughter Mariska who “was the best thing that ever happened to Anselm.” He suggested that her [Mariska’s] success in life has everything to do with Anselm and his love for her. “I only wish that he was around to see her blossom,” he said. 

Friend, colleague and fellow artist John Obafemi Jones said, “Anselm Richards painted his name on hearts and minds. That will forever be his legacy.” Jones said that Anselm and his cousin Paul Youngblood planned a show at Number One North in Christiansted, adding that Anselm’s work was nothing short of spectacular and every piece was sold. Jones shares the consistent reference to Anselm’s “priceless” teaching techniques, often told and retold by students and colleagues alike. 

“In my mind, Anselm’s highest achievements are not those masterly done watercolors like ‘Barren Spot’ or ‘Salvador,’ but the generations of creative thinkers, artists, and art educators that he nurtured and provided pathways for success,” said Jones. “He worked tirelessly to develop a curriculum that consisted of intense study of slides, books, and lively discussions.”

Every spring, Anselm would take his class on college and university campus visits to some of the country’s most prestigious schools. He would take both public and private school students. “This was very beneficial for our students, for they would get an up close and personal feel of higher education and the college acceptance process and could determine what kind of campus might be best suited for them,” explained Jones.

He used the national Congressional Student Art Competition to provide a high-caliber exhibition opportunity for his students. Selected students would compete locally. The winning artwork would be hung in the halls of Congress, where visitors would view the work. Anselm Richards was a devoted father and also an audiophile with a diverse taste in music, a sports fan, and a community arts advocate. But, most of all, he was my friend, and I miss him dearly, Jones said. 

“My art teachers — Gail Widmer, the late Anselm G. Richards and Albert Hazard cultivated my love for art when I attended St. Croix Central High School,” said Danica M. David. “I am thankful for these art experiences that opened the doorway for me to be a visual artist, an art educator, a photographer, and now an author.”

Chief Medical Illustrator, Howard University (Ret.) Bernard W. Brooks shared some memories. “During my brief stay on St. Croix, I had the pleasure of meeting Anselm Richards, who I found to be a wonderful artist and a person dedicated to his craft in watercolors. His technical skills showed a maturity that could be compared to such watercolorists as Cozens, Whistler, Cassatt, and others. I found him to be very pleasant and totally dedicated to his students. As I recall, his teaching skills led him to have several of his students participate in the U.S. Congressional Art Competition, which included a trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Anselm, sister Denise and brother Vargrave (Photo submitted by Juanita Woods)

Celebrated sailor Ted Seymour remembers Anselm during their time growing up in New York City, where both were avid runners. Seymour later recalled experiences with Anselm when they both migrated to St. Croix and both ran with the PACE track runners organized by Wallace Williams. 

Librarian, long-distance runner Williams, educator businessman Eugene Mitchell and educator, culture bearer Willard John shared many facets of their relationships with Richards during the years when their “Round Table” had its origin as a post-workout activity at the Caribbean Health and Racquet Club Restaurant at Beeston Hill on St. Croix. For close to three decades, they continued to meet at Bernie’s Restaurant in Peter’s Rest … on Saturdays. Seymour remembers it well, he said.

“It was a meeting of the minds, the exchange of information, and problem-solving,” Williams said.

“He was an exceptionally dedicated father to his daughter Mariska and was involved in every aspect of her life,” remembers Williams. “He significantly contributed to her personal and professional growth and development. As an educator, he was passionate about his daughter’s education and was proud of her achievements in school, college and law school.  We are certain that one of the milestones of his life was witnessing Mariska’s law school graduation, the “Round Table” group shared.”

The “Round Table” was unanimous in their recollections of Anselm as an educator, which correlates with so many of the narratives of his peers. He loved teaching the craft that he loved to the students whom he loved. He often shared his experiences with his students and their field trips and competitions with the Round Table, the group said. 

Mariska and Anselm Richards (Photo submitted by Juanita Woods)

Mariska Richards found it easy to share a recollection of her dad. “I was his number one priority always and he made sure to let me know that. There was nothing more important than me. He always showed me that. But the closest second was his students … his kids. That’s what he called them. He cared very much for them.”

Richards added, “I grew up with a family of adopted brothers and sisters — a lot of his kids. So many of his students would call me their little sister. He was very dedicated to being a great father to me, but I think he also wanted to carry that through with all of his students.

“There are so many memories of my dad that involve times that he would bring me around his students. One time we all painted a mural at the Buccaneer. One year he carried me along, and we painted at the Christmas Festival Village. I really got to be a part of a larger family. That was really great for me and I think that was super important for him.

“I’ve been around his “kids” since I was born. I remember students telling me, ‘I’ve known you since you were born.’ His kids were always a big deal to him, and I was the biggest deal. A lot of times we would spend weekends together with his ‘kids.’ I would go on NYC field trips with them. I was around them from the beginning of my life. I was the baby sister to so many people, and he was the father figure to all of them. That was so important to him,” Mariska said. 

Many of Anselm’s friends, colleagues, and students have shared their experiences with the late artist and educator. Narratives have been pouring in. They will be printed and posted at the “Leaving A Legacy” exhibition at the Cane Roots Art Gallery, opening Thursday, Nov. 10 and will remain until the closing Nov. 30.

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