Kreg D. Kelley came to DC from Connecticut to study political science at George Washington University and pursue a career in politics. Before graduation, he changed his goals and decided he “wanted to do something … I loved, something I would want to do for the rest of … my life.
For Kelley, that “something” was art. Before he graduated, Kelley left George Washington to take a job at Galerie Lareuse in Georgetown, “an opportunity … I couldn’t refuse.”
That opportunity turned into a long career, and Kelley now works as a curator at the gallery. He considers himself lucky to be “constantly surrounded by the greatest artists ever” and feels “motivated and inspired” everyday. As he works on restoring the pieces, he relishes the chance to touch and examine their details so intimately. He remembers handling the only etching Vincent van Gogh ever made: “It was the first time ever in my life I was speechless. I was in awe.”
Like many of the great masters whose work he handles on a daily basis, Kelley finds inspiration from his neighborhood and city. Kelley has lived in the neighborhood for almost 10 years and has enjoyed being a part of its growth and change.”Lautrec is the best example,” he says, of the way he incorporates the creative influences of his surroundings in his own work. “I have the best view from my apartment.” A view, he adds, that he painted in “Night in the City Series, Washington DC,” the 2010 ACLU National Calendar Contest Winner.
His greatest source of inspiration continues to be his audience. “People’s reaction has been my biggest fuel to keep on creating,” he explains. Although he has works across the nation, many of his pieces hang in the Borderstan area. “My first paintings, works of canvases, are all on the same five- or ten-block radius. That makes me feel welcomed and supported by my community. It makes me feel honored and motivates me to keep making people happy.”
Kelley’s commitment to charity underscores his connection to the community. He was “hugely involved” with charity work as a student — when he was unable to donate money to charity as a young artist, he donated works instead. “It’s hugely important to give back to your community, especially when you have your own business and you can be in a position to give back. I’m fortunate to do that.” This year, he has transitioned from donating single works of art to splitting a set percentage of all proceeds among four charities.
Most of all, Kelley says he loves “knowing that I can make people happy, touch peoples’ lives, and know that what I’ve done is going to be enjoyed… long after I’m around.” He sees art as “a way to give back to the world and make the world a better place to live in. You have to do what you love…. When you do what you love, everything else falls together.”
You can see Kelley’s work throughout the area. MOVA DC, Tonic Restaurant in Mount Pleasant, Last Exit Lounge, and Ulah Bistro all feature some Kelley’s art. His “Works on Canvas” exhibition opened January 27 at the Century 21 Redwood office at 17th and Q Streets NW, and he plans to participate in a forthcoming group show at Galerie Lareuse in March.