Invest In Me

Work of art

Invest in Me scholarship helps local painter and art educator hone his natural talent at VCU

When Amiri Richardson-Keys (B.F.A.'22/A) first considered Virginia Commonwealth University, the Richmond, Virginia, native was graduating with the John Marshall High School Class of 2000. He had been interested in painting and drawing since childhood and dreamed of a career as a professional artist.

At the time, life had other plans. Richardson-Keys’ first son was born shortly after he graduated.

“I was on a different, but equally rewarding journey,” says Richardson-Keys, now 40 and a proud father of six. “I had to shift gears from being a teenager to being not just a young adult, but also a parent. I had to make sure I was doing what I needed to do to take care of my family.”

Over the following years, Richardson-Keys prioritized his family while taking steps toward becoming the visual artist he aspired to be. He continued to create and sell original artwork, taught art to local at-risk youth, earned his associate of visual arts from John Tyler Community College and co-founded the ARTS (Artists Revealed Through Service) Community Center with his wife, Cindy. 

“I lead all things art at the center,” Richardson-Keys says. “It’s been fulfilling, but I knew I had this natural talent that needed to be groomed professionally. VCU was still on my mind. One of the best art schools in the country is right in my backyard — what better place could there be for me to level-up my career as an artist and art educator?”

Richardson-Keys enrolled at the VCU School of the Arts in 2020, and in May 2022, he completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking. During his time at VCU, he maintained a focus on his family and their business while also excelling in his academic courses, earning membership in Alpha Sigma Lambda, the national honor society for adult and nontraditional students, and Tau Sigma, the academic honor society for transfer students.

These achievements, he says, would not have been possible without encouragement from his family and aid from scholarships. An award from the Opportunity VCU fund, part of VCU’s Invest in Me scholarship campaign, in spring 2022 helped him finish his last semester strong.

“I appreciate the opportunity and the relief, especially as an adult learner with a family and a business to look out for,” Richardson-Keys says. “My scholarship helped me stay on track toward my goals without sacrificing my ability to support my family and their goals. One of my kids is a student at Virginia Union University, another starts college this fall and another graduates high school next spring. The financial assistance means a lot, but it also enables me to be a model for them in continuing their education.”

Scholarship donors provide a critical resource to eliminate barriers, helping students of all backgrounds succeed at VCU, Richardson-Keys says. 

“Many people who want to pursue education can’t because they don’t have the financial backing to make it happen,” he says. “When donors support scholarships, they make it possible for students to focus on their academic and creative pursuits without worrying how they’re going to afford it.”