Spalding grad Vinhay Keo named Louisville Visual Art ‘Rising Star’

Steve Jones

Spalding has produced a certified Rising Star in Louisville’s arts community.

Vinhay Keo, a 2016 graduate of the Spalding’s art program and a current admissions counselor, was honored Thursday, March 1 with the Rising Star Award by Louisville Visual Art at its The Stars Among Us luncheon.

Keo, a 23-year-old native of Cambodia who immigrated to the United States at 10, earned acclaim last fall for his solo exhibition, “Confront,” during the Louisville Photo Biennial. The exhibit at the Moremen Moloney Gallery was listed as one of the five must-see shows of the event by the Courier Journal. LVA described Keo’s exhibit “as a commentary that spoke to the chaos in American society, the worth and importance of the immigrant in that chaos, and the very core value of diversity that lies at the heart of the United States of America.”

“It was great to be in position to be recognized pretty recently after my undergrad, having graduated here,” Keo said. “To have already had the success I had with a solo exhibition last year and then to be recognized from that exhibition with this (LVA) event was just a really great honor and great privilege to be in the lineup with the (three) amazing (other honorees).”

He said he’s not sure the reality of his quick ascent in the Louisville arts scene has fully sunk in.

“At the end of the day, I realize my success wouldn’t have happened without a community of supporters who have helped me to get to where I am now, as far as the amazing faculty and staff here at Spalding and within the art program,” Keo said. “I’ve had some amazing mentors who have encouraged me to pursue things I didn’t even think I could do. I’m really lucky to be part of a community that embraces the notion of, ‘It takes a village,’ and I’m at the receiving end of all this amazing support.”

Keo said he was touched by the positive reception his “Confront” exhibit received from the arts community and from collectors.

“It was just a big boost of confidence – that perhaps this is the right path for me as a young artist,” Keo said. He added with a laugh: “And not necessarily a starving artist.”

Keo’s training is in studio art with a focus on digital media, and his work has included primarily photography. Moving forward, he said he’s interested in different disciplines of performance art and potentially doing video art and sound art.

“What I’m most interested in is how do I use art to engage with the larger community to really potentially be an agent of change to create a more accessible world and more diverse world,” he said.

(Story continues below)

‘A shout out to the Spalding community’

Hosted by film producer, developer and philanthropist Gill Holland, the LVA luncheon was held at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage and attended by Mayor Greg Fischer and dozens of others, including many from the art community.

Keo was one of two Spalding alumni to be honored by LVA.

The other was Elmer Lucille Allen, a 1953 graduate of Nazareth College (now called Spalding) who received LVA’s Legacy Award. Allen, who was the first African-American chemist at Brown-Forman, is an accomplished artist specializing in ceramics and textiles.

“She and I both gave a shout out to the Spalding community,” Keo said.

With his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Spalding, Keo said he now plans to continue his education and pursue a master’s of fine arts. He plans to enroll in grad school this fall, and he’s a candidate for admissions at some of the top grad art programs in the world, including in London, New York and California.

In his current job as a recruiter, Keo said he enjoys connecting with high school students who are in a position now that he was in not long ago as a student at Warren East High School in Bowling Green.

“I found out about Spalding through admissions counselors,” he said. “Now I get to be in that same role and essentially introduce high school students to the arts and a possibility of a career in the arts. Louisville is a really great community in terms of the people, the institutions and the overall spirit about the power of art and what it can do.”