Fiber artist named the 2024 Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher of the Year

May 06, 2024 News

Lauri Jenkins’ love of sewing as a teenager led the fiber artist to the Visual Arts Center in 2016. She began teaching children how to sew and today teaches adults as well. Her passion and dedication to her craft and to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond earned her the distinction of the 2024 Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher Award.

Jenkins will be presented with the award May 11 at VisArts’ signature fundraising event, the 38th Annual Collectors’ Night presented by Dominion Energy.

Each year, the award is presented to an instructor who exemplifies VisArts’ mission through his or her excellence, creativity and dedication to students. Faculty, staff, students, board members and members of the greater Richmond community are invited to nominate their favorite instructor for the award.

VisArts has recognized one member of its faculty with the Master Teacher Award since 2001. In 2011 the award was named to honor the memory of long-time watercolor instructor Shelly Shepherd.

Jenkins says she was surprised and honored to be recognized. “It’s a big deal for me,” she says. “It’s not only recognition for my expertise, which I’ve worked on for so long, but it makes me aware of my impact at VisArts.”.

Jenkins’ interest in the field began with watching her grandmother sew by hand.

“I’d see her sewing something and think, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’” she says.

When Jenkins was growing up, she would visit her grandmother on weekends. A neighbor who owned a clothing alteration shop liked sewing, but did not like cutting patterns, a necessary step at the time for fulfilling customer orders. Jenkins took on the task, earning $8 to $10 per pattern.

“This was around age 13,” the Patterson, N.J. native says. “I was attracted to textures and colors and how you can take a huge piece of fabric and make it into something.” Her interest in sewing really began to blossom when she was in high school.

After high school, she began making alternations for individual clients and eventually started her own business, Laurianda, designing clothing. She reached out to the Visual Arts Center in 2016 to begin to teach.

Jenkins says she was first attracted to VisArts because “There is a vibe there that I really love; a feeling of acceptance, and what we are doing in the community is in alignment with what I want to do as an individual. Everyone is so kind.”

Recognition for her work as an instructor at VisArts is an honor she is deeply proud of, she says. “Sometimes, after so much struggle and pushing through and hearing negative things as you develop your craft, it gets rough.” she says. “This award affirms that this was the right career choice for me and creates a boost inside of me that makes me want to go harder and strive higher.”

Consider making a donation to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond in honor of this year’s Shelly Shepherd Master Teacher Award recipient, Lauri Jenkins. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

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