The art and music communities were both deeply saddened by the passing of Evans Richardson on April 30, 2023. Mr. Richardson, aged 43, held the position of Chief-of-Staff at the Studio Museum in Harlem and was renowned as the life partner of singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. The exact cause of his passing remains undisclosed, leaving many in mourning and seeking answers. In this blog, we will commemorate the life and impact of Evans Richardson while delving into his relationship with Stevens, who dedicated his latest album, “Javelin,” to his beloved partner.
Who Was Evans Richardson?
Born on April 24, 1980, in St. Louis, Missouri, Evans Richardson embarked on his academic journey after graduating from Westminster Christian Academy. He pursued a bachelor’s degree in art history and African-American studies at Columbia University, later earning a master’s degree in African-American studies from Yale University.
Mr. Richardson’s career in the art world began as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he subsequently served as a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2011, he joined the Studio Museum in Harlem as the Director of Institutional Advancement, eventually ascending to the role of Chief-of-Staff in 2018. His responsibilities encompassed the oversight of the museum’s operations, strategic planning, fundraising initiatives, and communications. Additionally, he played a significant role in shaping the museum’s programming, exhibitions, and publications.
Evans Richardson held a position of high regard and influence within the art world, particularly within the realm of African-American art and culture. He exhibited a fervent commitment to promoting and supporting artists of color while championing diversity and inclusivity within the arts. His dedication extended to professional organizations, notably the American Alliance of Museums, where he assumed the role of Chairman of the Accreditation Commission in 2021.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, Richardson was described by friends and colleagues as a person brimming with life, love, laughter, curiosity, integrity, and joy. His interests and pastimes were diverse, including travel, culinary pursuits, literature, gardening, and art collection. Music, particularly in the genres of indie rock and folk, held a special place in his heart.
How Did Evans Richardson Meet Sufjan Stevens?
Evans Richardson’s introduction to Sufjan Stevens occurred through mutual acquaintances within the New York art scene. Sufjan Stevens, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter renowned for his genre-blending music, ranging from folk and rock to classical and electronic, first crossed paths with Richardson around 2009. Their connection deepened, eventually evolving into a romantic partnership. The couple kept their relationship largely private, seldom discussing it publicly. However, their profound connection was evident through their unwavering support for each other’s careers and personal passions. Together, they resided in Brooklyn, sharing their home with two feline companions named Mao and Alfie.
Sufjan Stevens dedicated his latest album, “Javelin,” to Evans Richardson, expressing his sentiments via an Instagram post on October 6, 2023:
“This album is dedicated to the light of my life, my beloved partner and best friend Evans Richardson, who passed away in April. He was an absolute gem of a person…He was one of those rare and beautiful ones you find only once in a lifetime – precious, impeccable, and absolutely exceptional in every way.”
Stevens also extended his gratitude to his fans for embracing his album and encouraged them to cherish their loved ones.
What Is “Javelin” About?
Released on October 6, 2023, “Javelin” marks Sufjan Stevens’ tenth studio album. Comprising 12 tracks, the album delves into themes of love, loss, grief, faith, hope, and healing. The album draws its title from a type of spear used for throwing or piercing.
“Javelin” serves as a narrative of the conclusion of Stevens’ long-term relationship with Richardson. The songs convey Stevens’ emotions and reflections as he navigates the aftermath of the breakup and mourns the loss of his partner. Additionally, the album reflects Stevens’ gratitude for the time spent together and his hope for a reunion in the afterlife.
Among the notable tracks on the album are:
- “So You Are Tired”: The album’s lead single encapsulates Stevens’ weariness and frustration with the relationship’s dynamics. Lyrics include: “So you are tired of us/So rest your head/Turning back fourteen years/Of what I did and said.”
- “Javelin”: Serving as the album’s titular track, it expresses Stevens’ longing for his partner. The lyrics resonate with lines like: “You are my javelin/You are my everything/You are my only friend/You are my everything.”
- “The Light”: This song celebrates the life and legacy of Stevens’ partner. The lyrics echo the sentiment: “You are the light/You are the light/You are the light/You are everything.”
- “The River”: A song that conveys Stevens’ sorrow over the loss of his partner. The lyrics poignantly express: “The river took you away/The river took you away/The river took you away/You are everything.”
How Can We Honor Evans Richardson’s Memory?
The passing of Evans Richardson represents a profound loss for the art and music communities, as well as for those fortunate enough to have known and cherished him. He left an indelible mark as a remarkable and inspiring individual who touched many lives. His memory can be honored by:
- Listening to Sufjan Stevens’ album “Javelin” as a tribute to their love and connection.
- Supporting institutions such as the Studio Museum in Harlem that champion African-American art and culture, a cause dear to Richardson’s heart.
- Emulating his example by living each day with a spirit of fullness, grace, reverence, love, gratitude, and joy.
Evans Richardson, a beloved figure in the art world and the partner of Sufjan Stevens, passed away on April 30, 2023. His life was characterized by his dedication to the arts and his unwavering support for his partner. In commemoration of his memory, Sufjan Stevens dedicated his album “Javelin” to him, a poignant reflection of their relationship and loss. We can honor and remember Evans Richardson by listening to the album and supporting the causes he held dear.