Victoria Connelly ’19 came to Newman because of her love for bowling. She left Newman with a new passion — art.
Connelly first met Newman Bowling Coach Billy Murphy when her older sister, Valerie, was recruited to the team in 2009. Just two years away from entering college herself, Connelly decided to observe some of the Newman bowling practices and immediately felt right at home.
She was already envisioning what life as a Newman bowler could be like and started honing her skills. By the time she was a senior at Heights High School in 2011, Connelly was ranked the No. 1 bowler in the state of Kansas.
She knew she wanted to continue on that path and she knew she would do that at Newman.
But two years into her collegiate journey, she realized things weren’t really going as she had planned.
“When I chose college, I chose it for bowling and not for education,” she explained. “That was a huge mistake. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted to do at the time. So my first two years were focused on bowling and taking a range of classes to hopefully figure out what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I never found it, and my grades were slipping. I stopped going to class. I was confused.”
She said her sister was the first in their family to graduate from college, and that caused her to create false expectations for herself and push herself a little too hard.
“I felt this pressure, that no one put on me but myself, to be great and get a well-paying job. My sister graduated with a nursing degree in 2013. I pushed myself to be like her and all it did was make me unhappy.”
Connelly found herself in a time of self-reflection. She started noticing more sketches where her notes should have been. She didn’t know a hobby such as sketching would lead to a brand new passion, and maybe even a career.
She decided she needed a break from higher education, so in 2013, she left Newman. With new time to herself, she became more active in drawing, painting and experimenting with different styles of artwork. Some of her art was starting to sell.
To make ends meet, she began waitressing but continued creating artwork. She was ready to find a way to make art her living and decided it was time to head back to college.
She re-enrolled at Newman in 2017 with a graphic design major in mind. Her mindset was that graphic design would provide a solid career opportunity and allow her some artistic freedom — all while being able to pursue her newfound passion.
Having a great support system helped Connelly with her decision.
“I am lucky enough to have parents that do not care what I choose as a career … as long as it makes me happy. I was so afraid to tell my parents that I wanted to drop out of college. When I sat down with them and told them the truth, they gave me nothing but love and understanding. They are so proud of where I am now and proud of my art.”
She found even more support her second time around at Newman, this time in an art professor, who she said, she will never forget.
“Mary Werner was the absolute best art professor I could have ever asked for. She cared about every single one of her students beyond what was required of her. Not only was she caring, but she was incredibly talented at art. I was lucky enough that she retired right after I graduated. Having her there made all the difference in the world.”
Connelly graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in May 2019 and has become very active in the local art scene.
She is currently working with acrylic paint, which is a medium she felt connected to right away. She also enjoys watercolor and chalkboards. In fact, she has been doing chalkboards for the restaurant she works at since 2013.
Her postings online started getting some attention and other restaurants were soon calling on her to do chalkboard art for them, too. She has always loved bringing this unique skill to her community.
She said creating pieces that push her out of her comfort zone is what she strives for. She finds inspiration in fun shapes and objects and she challenges herself to create detailed artwork.
“I really got into galaxy art for a while and still do that. However, I go through phases and always try to push to try something new. I just recently switched from galaxy art to balloon art and I am having a blast with it. It’s something I never thought I could do.”
The balloon art she creates is part of her unique 3D style of artwork. She loves being able to create real-looking art using this method. She recently had the honor of creating art for ICT Chalk Talks and her 3D style had some people baffled.
“I had reached out to ICT Chalk Talks a few times and they had an opening for their main chalkboard. They usually feature a new artist every month. When they gave me the opportunity to do it, I knew I wanted to do something different.
“I wanted to be able to not only let passersby see the art, but I wanted them to be able to be a part of it. When I posted online, people were confused. I had to explain that the curtain wasn’t there. It was chalk. I had tons of people tag me pretending to hold the curtain. I loved doing it so much.”
Connelly said the most fun part of being an artist is taking an idea and watching the layers come together and work themselves into reality. She added that making mistakes was something else she sees as a good thing because it can change the flow of her artwork.
“I don’t even know how something will turn out because half the time I change or do something else that popped into my head and my art can take a whole new direction. I don’t force myself to make anything. I start with an idea and adapt as I go.”
She is excited to see what her future holds for her. Along with applying for graphic design jobs locally, Connelly is looking for ways to make her artwork her career.
She stays busy building up enough art to create an online website, which she hopes to launch this year, where she can sell paintings, prints, stickers and eventually clothing.
“I am the happiest I’ve been. Even though I’m not using my degree at the moment, I’m using the tools I was given to do what I really want to do. I am a better artist having returned to school.”