Alumna’s bequest supports VCUarts

Looking back on her career in art education, Janet Payne (B.F.A.’70/A) can’t help but feel surprised by how it all fell into place. Before she enrolled at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, she had never taken an art class.

“I wanted so badly to take art as a teenager, but there was never enough student interest for my high school to offer an art course,” she says. “When I started classes at VCU, it was like being thrown into the crucible. I was totally out of my comfort zone, but I think it was the best thing for me.”

Payne credits her VCUarts education with instilling core creative values that informed her approach to her work as an art teacher and administrator. She retired in 2007 after 18 years as the head of the Stafford County, Virginia, public school system’s fine arts program, and she wanted to find a way to give back.

Last October, she began making plans for her estate and included an unrestricted bequest to the VCU School of the Arts as part of the Make It Real Campaign for VCU.

“When you create art, you are creating a lasting visual representation of your true self,” she says. “That is a big risk to take, but taking risks is what art is all about. At VCU, I felt encouraged to embrace that risk, and I hope my gift helps instructors provide that encouragement to future students.”

To learn more about the School of the Arts, contact Julia Carr, executive director of development, at (804) 827-4676 or