Prospect House dates to the mid-1800s and served as the president’s house for nearly a century

This is a photo "Pools," an abstract painting with lots of blue, hanging in Prospect House on a gray wall with a chair rail and crown moulding, next to a fireplace with a gilded mirror over it.
Katherine Boyce ’11’s abstract landscape painting “Pools,” is now on display in Prospect House.
Photo by Ricardo Barros
Katherine Boyce ’11’s abstract landscape painting “Pools,” now on display in Prospect House, was inspired by a group of rice terraces in southern China nicknamed “the dragon’s backbone.” She visited the region during her time as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow in Singapore. The patterns, she said, seemed like “a beautiful instance of a man-made modification of nature” and a contrast to more destructive human imprints on the natural world that she’s seen in her travels. 

Boyce has been a full-time artist for about three years (she previously worked in brand consulting), and in the last year, she has been on the road with her partner, living in a custom van, exploring the U.S. and Canada, and devoting her waking hours to painting. Much of her work, like “Pools,” plays with patterns and light sources. 

Boyce is among 21 Princetonian artists — alumni, students, and staff — whose works were chosen from nearly 200 submissions for a new exhibition at Prospect that focuses on five themes: origins and legacies, change and growth, belonging, community, and healing.

“It’s exciting to be showing at Princeton, because that’s where it started for me,” said Boyce, who fondly recalls her undergraduate visual-arts courses and the countless hours spent in the top-floor studios at 185 Nassau Street. 

The art in the Prospect exhibition, which will be on display for at least a year, was chosen by the Campus Art Steering Committee. James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum, said the idea was to showcase art that is inclusive of the wider campus community. Bringing contemporary art to Prospect, a building that dates to the mid-1800s and served as the president’s house for nearly a century, is “a sea change, and one that I think will be enlivening and very fresh,” Steward added.

This is a photo of a painting of a teacup with pink flowers.
“Untitled,” 2017, by Fizzah Arshad ’24
Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum
The artists represent a range of backgrounds. Fizzah Arshad ’24, for example, made art throughout high school but has not taken visual-arts courses at Princeton, where she plans to major in English. Still, the chance to see her work on display inspired her to submit an untitled drawing of a teacup, which was selected for the exhibition. 

Hope VanCleaf, until recently a staff member at the Lewis Center for the Arts, is pursuing photography in retirement. Her photo in the exhibition captures an easily overlooked piece of Princeton’s past: a leaded-glass window at Maclean House that shows names and messages inscribed by long-ago students. That the students had chosen to make their mark in this way — and that the University had preserved it — seemed like “such an amazing thing — that history etched in [glass],” VanCleaf said.

This is a photo of the painting "And Still We Thrive 1," which is abstract orange with black squares on top.
“And Still We Thrive I,” 2019, by Rhinold Lamar Ponder ’81
Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum
When friends encouraged artist and activist Rhinold Ponder ’81 to submit a painting for the exhibition, he immediately thought of “And Still We Thrive,” a series of abstract pieces he created in advance of a 2019 conference for Black alumni. The work, he said, is “symbolic of the challenges and joys of being Black at Princeton.”

Painting was not part of Ponder’s undergraduate experience. He majored in politics and took courses in creative writing. But he says that the liberal-arts experience has inspired his activism (he runs a nonprofit called Art Against Racism) and the spirit of self-learning that took him from a 30-year career as a lawyer to his pursuit of the arts. 

“Princeton is influential in everything I do,” Ponder said. 

This is a photo of the painting "Going Back," which looks like abstract mountains in shades of gray.
“Going Back,” 2013, by David A. Chamberlain ’71
Courtesy of Princeton University Art Museum