Dawn Murray: “You can’t spell ‘heart’ without ART!”

Thu Jan 3, 2019 at 09:48 AM

Dawn Murray with The Village Arts Center, LLC sign

Blue Ridge Community College has been Dawn Murray’s “go to” school on a couple of occasions. After graduating from high school in Maryland and moving to Virginia with her family in 1989, she registered to attend BRCC. Once she completed her associate’s degree, she married and started a family. Later, she entered the Adult Degree Program at Eastern Mennonite University and was on her way to earning a business management degree. When she realized she still needed 21 elective credits to complete her bachelor’s degree, she came back to BRCC to take art classes to fulfill those requirements. The course catalog had classes that suited the busy schedule of a mom with three active children.

“So at 40, I returned to the classroom. I didn’t know anything about Blackboard, and I was older than some of my teachers,” Dawn recalls. “I was nervous about returning to college with students the same age as my children, but I loved every class at Blue Ridge!”

Dawn was impressed that BRCC instructors emphasized communication and made themselves accessible to students.

“The professors were so willing to share their personalities,” she notes. “They encouraged open communication with their students and wanted to see us succeed."

Dawn opened the Village Arts Center in Broadway in 2016, and her pastor calls it her “ministry in the marketplace.” In a cozy, two-story house zoned as a business, she offers art programs, music lessons, literacy events, parties, and crafting activities for children and adults. From "lost arts" like embroidery to “social arts” of conversation and table manners, the programs incorporate opportunities to develop community, creativity, and connection.

“I like the idea of a renaissance of hospitality. I like to think of the people who visit the Village Arts Center as my guests, rather than my customers. Everyone is welcome here,” Dawn says. “People can come here and connect with creativity again. We are more of a FUN arts center than a FINE arts center! It has become a village with a true sense of community.”