Since Prince’s death last Thursday, many stories have surfaced about his love of the arts and his compassion for others, but in 1998 both of those themes came together right here in St. Louis. The result was a lot of happier kids and one very happy artist, whose work would become the cover of Prince’s 2001 album, The Rainbow Children.

Cbabi Bayoc is that artist. At the time, his work was on display at Dignity House, a program of Neighborhood Houses, on Union Boulevard (today the Boo Cat Club). Prince was in town for a concert in Collinsville, Illinois.

Prince asked some staffers to drop off food and other items for the kids in Dignity House’s after-school program. The artwork impressed the staff members so much that they snapped some pictures and took them back to Prince.

Prince loved the name “Dignity House” because of how it could empower kids. When he saw the artwork later, he loved it, too. He reached out to Bayoc to buy some of his paintings.

“He originally bought five paintings, but about two years later one of his people called to ask about buying some more,” Bayoc remembers. “I sent him some photos and he bought three more. Then a few months later a young woman with his organization called again to buy the rights to one of them for use on an album cover.”

The painting was titled The Reine Keis Quintet. Reine Keis is Bayloc’s wife. He painted it after she suggested that he make more paintings of women.

“Because Prince bought all the rights, including naming rights, he renamed it The Rainbow Children,” Bayoc says.

So what was it like knowing his artwork would be used as the cover of a Prince album?

“It was a big honor, but I didn’t see how big it was until I started to get email from places like Japan and Australia from people wanting prints of the image,” he says. “I couldn’t provide them because Prince had all the rights, but it was exciting to know my work was being seen and liked around the world.”

Even with the attention all things Prince are getting today, Bayoc is modest about his achievement.

“You never know what’s gonna happen. You just keep doing what you do,” he says. “But it does give me a special feeling knowing how many people cherish the image.”

Today, Bayoc is still producing art, and it’s still on display–in Reine’s bakeshop/art studio SweetArt in the Shaw Neighborhood (2203 S. 39th Street).

I think I know where I’m headed for coffee tomorrow!

Special thanks to my wife, Ellen Reed-Fox, Vice President of Development for Neighborhood Houses, for tipping me off to this story! Dignity House, which is no longer operating, was a program of Neighborhood Houses from 1975 until 2010.