PANAMA CITY — Florida State University Panama City will soon host the work of an award-winning local artist in its series of illuminations.
Tri-State legend Ricky Steele will present his new work at Florida State University Panama City as part of the “Illumination, Shedding Light on Diversity” series, which focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion. Steele will welcome new abstract pieces to his collection, which features his emotionally-stimulating illustrated work.
The Illumination event will take place from 5-6:30 p.m. on August 30 at FSU Panama City, 4750 Collegiate Drive, in the Holley Academic Center conference room. Light refreshments and appetizers will be served. The presentation and reception are free and open to the public.
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Steele has strong roots in Bay County. The Mosley High School graduate attended Gulf Coast Community College before heading to Tom P. Haney Technical Center. He graduated in 1981 and became the region’s first black airbrush.
“I would love to see everyone come out and support, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with the community,” Steele said. “It’s always good to have people back home show they appreciate what I do.”
During the event, Steele will discuss the challenges he has faced during his 40+ year career as an artist and the story behind his works. Also known as the “emotional painter”, his art tells stories of poverty, race and social injustice.
As his career progressed, he immersed himself in art forms including mixed media with acrylics, watercolors and fine art. His works range from vibrant musical summaries to children of different races embracing – celebrating the unifying power of the arts.
“All of my work evokes emotion, and most of my art is reproduced from images taken by local photographers,” Steele said of his inspiration. “I’m a big people lover, so I always look for that Kodak moment when I think about my next piece.”
Steele had enormous success painting black historical figures, including portraits of former U.S. Representative John Lewis, which are displayed in Panama City Hall, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the legend of music by Aretha Franklin, NBA legend Michael Jordan and former US President Barack Obama. Using images as a guide when creating his realistic portraits, Steele captures the characteristic expressions of his subjects.
Locally, Steele’s work has been featured at the Gulf Jazz Society’s Jazz by the Bay and the Panama City Center for the Arts. He has won over 100 awards in the United States and abroad, including first place at the Arts in the Heart festival showcasing fine art in Augusta, Georgia. Additionally, Steele was nominated this year as a 2022 Tri-State Legend, where he showcases his work throughout Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
Steele has used her platform to create a mentorship program to help young artists and speaks publicly at local and national events to encourage and motivate them. Steele said he carries his legacy with hope and helps change the world with art.
“I hope my art can be a ministry for someone, and my door is always open to anyone who wants to move forward using their gift,” Steele said. “My ultimate goal is to leave images in the world that inspire, change and make a difference.”