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Lexy Holcombe

Assistant Professor

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You may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime (1980)

 

Politically aware and media-hungry from a very young age, Lexy earned a BA in political science in 1983 at Chatham College (now Chatham University) in Pittsburgh. She moved to Washington, DC after graduation, having been stricken by Potomac fever, and took a succession of writing and editing roles with a variety of nonprofits and public affairs publishers, including The Congressional Quarterly Press. She later continued to research and write about society and the public welfare, earning an MA in journalism and public affairs from American University in 2001. 

 

Alongside this path, design always called. Hours spent in her father’s woodworking shop and grandmother’s sewing studio imprinted the logic of systems of construction as well as the gift of early experience in craft, making and materiality. Meanwhile, Lexy’s family moved from the East to West Coasts and down into the Deep South and back East (twice) during her first ten years. The dichotomy of mobility and stasis during this period initiated a lifelong search for the soul of place and space. Later, as a homeowner, Lexy’s experience renovating two prewar homes served as a laboratory to explore this polarity, using A Pattern Language (Alexander, et al., 1977) as a guide to understanding order, form and light. Two seminal exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, Shaker Design (1986-87) and The Quilts of Gee’s Bend (2004) opened Lexy’s eyes to the sublime power of Shaker simplicity and the Modern mastery of the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, precedents that continue to hold substantial influence over her design thinking process today.

 

Lexy tiptoed closer to a career in design, eventually landing a managing position with a small architecture firm in Bethesda, Maryland in the early 2000s. This role gave Lexy an opportunity to work with every part of the design business, except the design itself. She hoped to use this experience to write about design and architecture. Instead, she concluded that it was time to stop chewing around the edges: what she really wanted to do was make design. A series of classes and workshops in woodworking and furniture design secured this desire.

 

Then after 30 years in the DC area, Lexy used a major life inflection point to make a move down I-95 to the Richmond, Virginia region in 2014. At her husband’s urging, Lexy read The Blue Zones Solution in the summer of 2015, just as she enrolled in VCU’s Interior Design MFA pre-professional program. Using the Blue Zones model as a blueprint for healthy living, Lexy designed an adaptive reuse, mixed use micro-Blue Zone based on the principles of Active Design for her thesis research topic, earning her degree in May 2017. 

 

Starting as an adjunct professor at VCU in fall 2017 and then as a full-time assistant professor in 2019, Lexy now teaches interior graphics to undergraduate and graduate students and co-teaches the senior seminar. She has also taught the sophomore studio and will teach the undergraduate seminar in the upcoming spring 2021 semester. Upcoming teaching opportunities also include a Space Research studio in VCUarts’ Art Foundation program in spring 2021, which will allow Lexy to combine her research into Japanese and Shaker design with explorations in sketching, textile art and woodworking. Lexy continues to pursue research into the principles of Active Design with a commitment to creating healthy and democratic human-centered environments.

 

Lexy keeps strong ties to the Washington region, frequently visiting her son and daughter, their families and many friends, as well as to Pennsylvania, where most of her extended family still lives. Lexy and her husband, Robert, who has retired from a career as a US foreign service officer, live in North Chesterfield, Virginia. Here they eagerly plan a safe return to travel and new opportunities to explore great design and architecture.

 

I believe in the workshop as a foundation of teaching + learning

 

the workshop 

establishes mutual support 

is based on trusting relationships

challenges orthodoxy and creates paths for new insights

builds a firm foundation for individuals to gain new experiences

 

Kamoinge Workshop, a group of Black photographers in New York City

a group of people acting and working together

collective action

pushing each other

exchange of knowledge

expanding boundaries

 

moai, social support groups on Okinawa, Japan

having a common purpose 

making a contribution

exchanging shared interests

shaping emotional connections

 

the studio, a room where the work is done

sharing knowledge and skills

using inquiry to develop critical ways of thinking

seeking and offering opposing views