Passion turns into career

Monty Montgomery, a 1993 graduate of Louisa County High School, has turned his passion for art into a career, with work featured across the country from Virginia to San Diego, California.

Monty Montgomery developed a passion for art at an early age, and he has since turned that passion into a career. His artwork can be seen across the country from Richmond to San Diego, California.

Montgomery was born in 1975 to Steve and Dianne Montgomery of Bumpass. He and his brother Gilbert grew up in a log cabin his parents had built when they moved to Louisa in 1972. 

“I always felt so blessed to grow up [in Louisa County],” he said. “My brother and I grew up playing in the woods and building forts and being imaginative.”

Montgomery attended Mineral Elementary School for the first few years of his academic career. His third grade teacher, Carlease Jackson, was one of his earliest influences in his love of art. 

“That was the class where I remember really starting to dive into art,” he said. “She made me really start caring about specific parts of drawing.”

His love of art continued to grow, encouraged by other art teachers, including Ginna Cullen at Louisa County Middle School and Rebecca Massey at Louisa County High School. 

“They made me focus on what I could do,” he said. “They made me pay attention to my skill and my care. They really made me literally sit down in a chair and wanted me to do a good job.”

Montgomery graduated from Louisa County High School in 1993 and spent his freshman year of college at Chowan University in Murfreesboro, North Carolina before transferring to Longwood College in Farmville in 1994. At Longwood, Montgomery met two professors who would help influence him to take his art to the next level and make a career out of it: Howard Springer, who taught illustration, and Randy Edmonson, who taught painting. Montgomery describes them as “very strong figures in a very similar way.”

“[Springer] really made me pay attention to what I was doing and why I was doing it a certain way. He really lit a fire under me to care more about art and to care more about the process,” he said. “Mr. Edmonson really made me look at painting differently. He really brought me into the world of hard-edge painting and color theory, and what you see now more in my career.”

Montgomery has since traveled and lived in many different places across the country, from Brooklyn, New York to Boston, Massachusetts to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He currently divides his time between living in Charlottesville and San Diego, and returns to Louisa for holidays. He still stays in touch with the teachers who have influenced him and visits them whenever he can.

“Still to this day, I share with them how much they built my vision and career,” he said. “They’re still very important parts of my life.”

Montgomery’s work can be seen in cities around the country. He was the featured artist for the San Diego Museum of Art’s 2019 Bloom Bash for which he painted a 176-foot suspended mural, the largest solo piece in the museum’s history. Last fall he painted a mural for the Sparks Gallery in San Diego, and he’s done work in Santa Fe, Chula Vista, California, and Costa Rica.

He’s also been very active in his home state of Virginia. He was a featured artist for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival at Longwood University each year from 2016 to 2019, and in December of 2020, he partnered with Richmond-based muralist and activist Nico Cathcart to paint a mural for Brown Ballerinas for Change. The 23-foot-tall mural can be seen at the corner of Granby and Main streets in Richmond’s Fan District.

Montgomery has a number of projects lined up for 2021, including painting a mural for Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas and painting a basketball court in San Diego through a partnership with Project Backboard, which works to refurbish dilapidated basketball courts around the world. 

Going forward, Montgomery plans to “really give all my time to art.” 

“I want to spend a lot more time refining my skills this year,” he said. “I want to give more time to fewer projects and keep refining my craftsmanship from framing to painting to doing murals.”

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