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A Great Loss to the Art World & Humanity

On Thursday, December 24, 2021, Stevens Jay Carter passed suddenly at the age of 63 in Plainfield, New Jersey. He was a loving husband to Carol A. Swainson, proud father of Stevens Jay Carter, Jr., beloved family member and friend, and a treasured contemporary artist who personally and creatively made the world a more beautiful place.

Born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey, Stevens was the youngest child of the late Ruth Knight Carter Washington and the late Thomas Andrew Carter, Jr. As a youth, and throughout his adulthood, family and friends affectionately called him “Weedle”. This nickname in no way held him back from achieving significant prowess as a scholar athlete while wrestling at Plainfield High School and at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt).

He earned a B.A. in Studio Arts & Museumology at Pitt where he also joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. From this point on, Stevens created a wealth of artistic works — forever testing his limits. During this deeply explorative and productive time, he relished working long days in the studio, creating, taking cat naps and returning to the creative zone. He later often mentioned how he treasured his time with Stevens Jr. in his studio eating rice and beans together.

Stevens was a life-long educator. He created murals with young people of all ages, taught at George Mason High School, Falls Church, VA, and Park Day Middle School in Oakland, CA, mentored young artists through the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and held adjunct faculty posts at Carnegie Mellon University, Slippery Rock University, and Penn State University.

In 1996, Stevens met his soulmate and future wife, Carol Swainson, who became his muse for many works of art, most notably, his C-Note series. Besides creating art and managing the non-profit alternative arts organization “Project Brasas” which served as an incubator for artists and played a significant role in the current art district that exists in the Penn Quarter area in Washington, DC. In 1999, Stevens ran the Chicago Marathon with a finish time of 3:15:05. Throughout his life, he continued to love running and enjoyed nature hikes for the exercise and creative inspiration. He cherished times with good-natured “positive energy” people, eating Carol’s cooking and drinking cabernet and fine cognac. His contagious laugh, intellectual discourse and vivacious energy enlivened any room.

After moving to Oakland, California in 2010, Stevens and Carol, founded and co-helmed the International Peace and Arts Center — “where peace and harmony is and should be a way of life embedded in a world filled with art!” Stevens had a special gift to raise people to a higher level, bring out the best in them, and help them realize their full potential. This core strength of Stevens was adored by his Oakland community who endearingly called him the “Mayor of 29th Street”. Stevens’ legacy of uplifting humanity will continue through ongoing engagements of the International Peace and Arts Center.

Throughout his dynamic career he worked tirelessly to be artistically diverse and command skills that enabled him to articulate his many visions — from 2D and 3D works, to fashion wear and decor — there were no limits. In recent years, his artworks tackled the Corona Virus and other challenging social issues. Stevens’ ethos and unwavering tenacity to be a positive force through art, rendering peace and harmony, resonates brightly through his legacy of works.

Stevens will forever be remembered by his devoted wife, Carol A. Swainson of Oakland, CA, and his son Stevens Jay Carter, Jr. of Washington, DC; his siblings Donna Mial (Donald) of Raleigh, NC; William Washington (Tracie) of Raleigh, NC; Yvette C. DelValle of Plainfield, NJ and Alan Washington (Tangela) of Raleigh, NC; stepmother Mrs. DeLois S. Carter (the late Thomas, Jr.), as well as a host of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. He was preceded in death by his brothers Thomas Andrew Carter III of Des Moines, IA, and William Washington of Raleigh, NC.

In lieu of flowers and in honor of Stevens Jay Carter legacy, donations may be made in honor of Stevens Jay Carter to the Joyce Gordon Foundation of the Arts located in Oakland, California via this link Donations by check may also be mailed directly to the Joyce Gordon Foundation of the arts at 406 14th Street, Oakland, CA, 94612. Be sure to put Stevens or IPAAC in the memo of your check.

Stevens Jay Carter’s professional achievements include the following:

Commissioned murals in such places as New York City, (the Pathfinder Publishing Co. and the Carlton Arms Hotel); the City of Altoona, Altoona, PA; the Williamsport Arts Council, Williamsport, PA; the Blue Mountain School District, Pottsville, PA; the PA State Correctional System, Harrisburg, PA; the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, Washington, DC. Carter also created a backdrop for the New World Dance Co. in Washington, DC which was used by the likes of Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and entertainer Stevie Wonder; the Millennium Image for The Capital Jazz Fest in Annapolis, MD; a public commission for Montgomery County Arts Commission in Silver Spring, MD; a mural for Independent Living Skills Project in collaboration with Blair Underwood in Oakland, CA; and the Art & Soul Festival in Oakland, CA.

Exhibitions in institutions such as the Blair Museum, Hollidaysburg, PA; the Southern Alleghenies Museum, Johnstown, PA; the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, Philadelphia, PA; Artspace Gallery, Sacramento, CA; Ariel Gallery, New York, NY; the Palm Beach Gallery, Houston, TX; the Ira Pinto Gallery, Washington, DC; Gallery 10, Washington, DC; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Anacostia Museum, Washington, DC; The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; The Sumner Museum, Washington, DC; Harmony Hall, Ft. Washington, MD; Gallérie Intemporel, Paris, France; American Painting, New York & Washington, DC; the Ratner Museum, Bethesda, MD; the Pfizer Gallery in New York City; Joyce Gordon Gallery, Oakland, CA; and the Terra Firma Gallery in San Rafael, CA.

Awards include the DC Commission on the Arts Technical Assistance Award, a visiting fellowship of the Smithsonian Institution, and several Artist-in-Residence grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He also received the ArTrends Gallery Choice Award 2000 for Best Contemporary Artist and a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award in 2006.

Faculty positions at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania College of Technology, and Slippery Rock University. In addition, Adjunct faculty appointments led him to the Smithsonian Institution, Pennsylvania State University, and University of Pittsburgh

Media exposure and publications that covered his artistic activities were on the Evening Magazine Channel 2, the 2-Day Show, Black Chronicle, Pittsburgh Magazine, the Shooting Star Review, The Washington City Paper, DC Arts, Art Trends Magazine, The Washington Times, The Pitt Magazine, The Washington Post and more.

Prominent collectors include the Evans Tibbs Collection, The International Multicultural Arts Foundation, Carnegie Library, the Mosby Lifeline Publishing Co., the District of Columbia, in addition to many private collectors.

Distinguished honors include having his work of art presented to President Clinton by the Congressional Black Congress. An additional piece of artwork was presented at the TransAfrica Forum to its founder Randal Robinson. He completed a commissioned piece for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (formerly, the National Council of Negro Women) entitled “Participation” and received a personal thank you from their esteemed 40-year president Dr. Dorothy Height. The A. Philip Randolph Foundation commissioned two pieces from Carter, “Let loose in the Booth” for the 2000 election featured widely on the East Coast to stimulate voter participation and a portrait of Dr. King in memory of the 40th Anniversary of the Sanitation Strike.

Even during times of social distancing, anyone who has suffered a loss deserves love and support more than ever before. Let the family know you care by leaving treasured memories, thoughts and prayers on the Tribute Wall.

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