Alumni Spotlight: Emily Vriesman Payne, Artist

Jul 3, 2019

Making Art for a Living. And a Cause.

Emily Vriesman Payne combined her passion for art and graphic design with her interest in education and social justice to create murals of inspirational people from around the world for her senior art project at Xavier. Since graduating in 2016, however, her art has continued to impress, educate and inspire not just the children the portraits were initially created for, but people worldwide as her art depicts changemakers and their inspirational quotes.

She calls herself a “designer for the greater good.” For her senior thesis, “Excluded Warriors,” Emily created tapestries for the international school, Roberts Paideia Academy, in Price Hill. The Cincinnati Public School educates children representing at least 10 different countries, and Emily set about creating portraits of recognized individuals from each country to be inspirational role models for the children.

"I have a big heart for inclusiveness, diversity and social issues, which is also displayed in my current artwork as well,” she says. “I concentrated in both Graphic Design and Art Education, so these tapestries were a fun way to combine all of my interests. The idea behind the tapestries stemmed from my observations in our education system. Our books and materials are completely whitewashed, but our classrooms are full of all kinds of diversity. All people (especially kids) deserve to see positive role models around them that look like them, that they can aspire to be like and relate to."

The murals from her project now decorate the walls of a space in the school that the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center uses for its offices. The center recently recognized Emily's work on its facebook  and Instagram pages.

Emily works now as a graphic designer at Community First Solutions in Hamilton, Ohio, but she still creates original artwork that builds upon what she started with her project. The work she does now is mostly digital portraits but they still “highlight changemakers around the world.”

Changemakers she's highlighted range from President Barack Obama and Serena Williams to Colin Kaepernick, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malcolm X, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai, among many others.

Visit Emily’s website to learn more about her and her work, and her Instagram page to view more of her art.


Interested in studying Art, Fine Art or Graphic Design at Xavier? Visit the Department of Art to learn more.