Alumni Spotlight: Kelly Brown Lawler
Meet Kelly Brown Lawler (B.F.A.’90), artist and Philadelphia Chapter member.
Kelly Brown Lawler graduated from VCU in 1990 with a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design. She spent 25 years in IT, working in numerous industries, including the Olympics, professional women’s basketball, local government, nonprofits and the corporate sector. After moving around the country, returning to Philadelphia in 2018, living through the pandemic and undergoing a spiritual awakening, she made a hard pivot back to art, pursuing her master’s at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. This past summer, the halfway point of her program, she spent three months at the VCUarts Qatar Campus expanding her art as a visiting scholar.
“Experiencing the master’s of fine arts program at VCUQatar was a true gift to my life,” she says. “It allowed me to meet amazing artists from all corners of the world [and] a huge variety of cultures, helping me cherish each person’s uniqueness even more.”
Her desire is to use her emerging art practice to invoke healing and connectedness; her latest project is leading the Peaceful Cities project, which trains people to use proven meditation techniques to reduce violence. This new Peaceful Cities project is scheduled for this coming spring and will focus on a yet-to-be-named Philadelphia neighborhood.
Why did you choose VCU?
I wanted to major in art and play field hockey, and VCU was one of the few schools that offered both. Syracuse University was the other, but upon receiving their catalog showing the Syracuse courtyard covered in snow, I said, “Guess I’ll go to VCU”.
How did VCU help you get to where you are now?
My VCU experience always set me apart from my peers; it had me approaching problems from a more creative angle. I learned to approach everything as part of a team, with goals larger than myself. I am always looking to ensure everyone is heard and respected. Both the degree and the experience playing field hockey created the avenues for me to excel in leadership, in my career and in every community I have been a part of. Additionally, it gave me the confidence to move around the country listening to my heart.
Why should people get involved with their local alumni chapter?
Along with the thought that we should never stop learning, we should never stop connecting with others. The alumni chapter brings together a diverse group of individuals who are uniquely connected by being a Ram. Having that automatic starting point allows us to open up quickly and find fun and interesting ways to share ourselves and get to know each other.
What do you love about Philly?
Philly combines the energy of a city steeped in history but also trying to do the right thing. I love walking and riding my bike as my primary mode of transportation and continuing to get to know the city and all its uniqueness.