"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" and "This Hair Is Mine," for the "IF MY HAIR COULD TALK" exhibition at the Bakery Cowork in Atlanta, and walked for TME LAFW wearing Truth Black by Parker XL & Designs by Bri Marie in 2022.
"I believe that the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen. If you have a dream in your heart, dream BIG. Keep believing in it while also making sure to put action behind it. The sky isn’t the limit, reach above that. Get inspired. No one is uniquely designed like you and THAT is your superpower. You never know what doors could unlock for you."
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 were 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 first 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."
The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, part of the College of Fine Arts, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studio, art history and visual studies, art education, curatorial studies and digital media design.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.