Keys’ service as an artist-activist began in 2011 when she chartered the Theta Gamma Chapter of Kappa Pi International Honorary Art Fraternity at Bradley University as a way of building solidarity among the art students at Bradley and the Peoria community. Keys served as chapter president for two years before entering the MFA program at Illinois State University in 2013 where she was awarded the individual Eric R. Baber Fellowship Grant from the School of Art faculty for artistic merit and outstanding professional performance.
During her graduate studies at Illinois State University, Keys received two grants from Illinois State University; the first for a solo exhibition titled Habits of Survival at Rachel Cooper Gallery, and the second for a group exhibition Keys curated titled (Re)Vision What Is Post-Black Art at Jan Brandt Gallery. The artwork in Habits of Survival also received a Sisters & Friends Scholarship Award for its studio engagement of Black female identity through artist books, assemblage objects, and craft work. Her most recent merit award is the 2017 Exceptional Ability and Outstanding Recognition Award from the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry. Keys’ activism was further acknowledged in 2016 when the School of Art chairperson nominated her to be inducted as a Bell Ringer at Illinois State University. Bell Ringers are nominated every year from students, faculty, and staff who have significant contributions to the quality of campus life.
When Keys isn’t creating art, she is writing and contributing to the discipline of Women’s and Gender Studies and various disciplines within the African diaspora. Keys’ theory on being a black artist has been published in the current Spring 2017 issue of Kalfou: A Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies Journal.
Keys’ art in the permanent collections of the University Galleries of Illinois State University, the Education and Foundations Department at Illinois State University, Department of Art at Bradley University, and the Saint Louis University Museum of Art. She has also exhibited at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Front Room Gallery in New York, University of Illinois in Springfield, Prairie Center of the Arts in Peoria, Illinois; and Gallery Guichard in Chicago. Keys recently participated in the international Painting and Mixed Media Summer Residency Program at the School of Visual Art in New York, NY.
Keys was born in 1991 and raised on the South Side of Chicago, IL. She received a BFA in Painting in 2013 from Bradley University, and her MFA in Painting in 2016 with a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from Illinois State University. Keys currently lives in Bloominton, IL and is an adjunct faculty at Illinois Central College and Bradley University in Peoria, IL.