SA/VS alumna gives back to students

Art studio alumna Brianna Armstrong (BFA '20) recently established the Alumni Award for Achievement (Big Steppa Award), in recognition of her School of Art and Visual Studies experience, in the spirit of giving back to others, and to help encourage current students.
Armstrong was the recipient of the Foundations Award winner as a freshman at the University of Kentucky. A 2020 graduate, she is now a fine multimedia fiber and textile artist, fashion designer, model, creative director, registered behavioral technician, and, as she says, "all the good things."
She specializes in fiber and textiles, making wearable art, and has a deep love of fusing various mediums together. In her work, Armstrong sheds light on the stories of African Americans who have been overlooked.

"My pieces often feature real people — family, friends, celebrities — and specifically Black women," Armstrong explains. "I replicate the image of what Black excellence and Black culture looks like from my own perspective."

Armstrong has had the privilege of orchestrating, designing, and modeling for the Lyric Theatre's first fashion show in 2023. She's worked along designers like Micah Walker as they displayed their sustainable designs in a window display located near the Kentucky Theatre in 2023. Armstrong was nominated Best Artist for The BLUEPRINT Awards in 2023. She displayed her artworks, DFWM I N N E R G & This Hair Is Mine, for the IF MY HAIR COULD TALK exhibition at the Bakery Cowork in ATL, and walked for TME LAFW wearing Truth Black by Parker XL & Designs by Bri Marie in 2022.

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How did SA/VS prepare Armstrong for working in her industry? She considers her professors "the best of the best" and intentionally took as many courses as possible during her time at SA/VS to learn a variety of media. "By working in various mediums, I was able to learn the different processes, functions, and meanings they could potentially hold," Armstrong explained. "I always knew that I wanted to follow the footsteps of my professors and have my work in galleries and museums as well. My BFA committee was super helpful during this time, I literally had the best team. I would continuously unlock new levels because of their continuous support and words of wisdom (that still stick with me today)."

When asked about her favorite memories of UK, Armstrong said she was instantly inspired each time she stepped in the building.

"First off, THE Ebony G. Patterson was my painting professor," Armstrong said. "I was able to discover the beauty fiber and textiles had to offer with Crystal Gregory. Doing live performance pieces with Rae Goodwin was so liberating. Working alongside THE Bobby Scroggins in ceramics was a joy. Being in the metal shop with my cheetah boiler suit on alongside Garry Bibbs and Jeremy Colbert was [amazing]."

The Alumni Award for Achievement Fund (Big Steppa Award) provides support to School of Art and Visual Studies undergraduate students to encourage their fearless creativity and determination to work in their chosen medium or mediums. The Fund provides two annual award(s) to benefit undergraduate student(s) in textiles and other media.

The first two recipients of the awards Armstrong established will be announced at the 2023 Carey Ellis Awards at the Bolivar Art Gallery, Dec. 1, 2023.

What compelled Armstrong to make this gift? She said she's always had a love of giving back, watching creatives excel in their craft of choice, and helping those who've helped her.

"I remember one of my past professors mentioning that when we make it big it would be so nice to give back to our community," Armstrong said. "I responded in my head, 'I can do that'. In 2017, my freshman year, I was awarded 1st place for a Foundations Exhibition. It made me feel so seen and validated having other artists articulating and critiquing my work. I was also up against sophomores, juniors, and seniors as well so that really meant something to me. After that I felt invincible."

This supportive community for Armstrong came from all walks of life. "A group of people went to a room and congregated together and knew there was something special about me," she said. "Having the opportunity to give this gift is an honor and I know that this is bigger than myself. It’s like a nice ripple effect. Passing the baton if you will. A nice full circle moment."

"If you’re thinking about giving back in any way, do it. You never know whose life you’ll be impacting for the greater good. This is my way of showing thanks and gratitude for SA/VS and everyone who helped me along the way on my journey. What a wonderful village to be a part of."

Created 11/27/2023
Last Updated 12/01/2023