Q & A with Young Builders and Designers Founder Brian Kelley
Brian Kelley pictured with a group of students

WAM’s Frank Gehry-designed building is the perfect backdrop for architecture and design programs. Expanding on existing architecture and design programs, like WAM’s Teen Architecture Summer workshop, the Weisman has partnered with designer Brian Kelley, founder of the Young Builders and Designers program, for youth design workshops over the past year and will continue to offer workshops this winter and spring. Recently, Jamee Yung, WAM’s director of education, sat down with Brian to discuss his career development, life influences, and what motivates him. 

Jamee Yung: What's your background? Where are you from and how does that affect your work?

Brian Kelley: I am a professional designer who ran a studio for years and then went to work for an architecture firm and then on to teach programs focused on the design/build trades. I am from a neighborhood called Tangletown in Minneapolis. There are a multitude of well-designed, well-built homes in the neighborhood as well as one of the most unique municipal water towers that exists in the Twin Cities. It helped shape my appreciation for art, architecture and design. 

JY: Have you always lived in the same area as you do today? How do you feel that has shaped your identity as a designer?

BK: No, the rising costs of homes in Minneapolis have pushed me out! I live in a suburb. I believe in young people learning about architecture and design. It is valuable for kids who otherwise would not have exposure to learn about creativity as it relates to the design and building trades. The purpose of Young Builders and Designers is to bring these opportunities to young people to make a social impact as well as provide career exploration.

JY: How have you developed your career and how do you seek out opportunities?

BK: I developed my career by participating. While I was in design school I worked as a laborer building an RV dealership. I wanted to learn about all of the aspects of design and building and I looked for opportunities throughout my career to develop experience. As an educator, all of those experiences have been vital in the process of teaching youth about the design and building trades.

JY: What do you like most about design and architecture?

BK: My favorite style is the English Tudor. The "half-timbered" style is a style I really appreciate.

Brian Kelley on a field trip with Young Builders and Designers

JY: Who are your biggest influences? … in life? ... architecture &  design?

BK: I am a man of faith and my biggest influence is Jesus Christ. I am committed to learning more about how to live a life that shows his love. In life, I am influenced by creativity and embrace creative people through many disciplines of design. In architecture, John Cuningham, FAIA has been a friend of mine over the years and is a local architect. He has been a great influence of mine. Another architect, Mohammed Lawal, FAIA, is also a great influence of mine, I admire and respect both of them

JY: What motivates you to create? 

BK: I believe that creativity is free. The materials just cost money! What motivates me to create are opportunities to bring things to life. I feel like art and design breathe life into everyday environments and that is why architecture and interior design are so important to me.

JY: What motivates you to work with youth? 

BK: I feel like design has been removed from so many school environments. Architecture and design is almost completely omitted. If I can help increase the amount of youth who have the opportunity to learn about design, I can help in the process of building a future generation of creative people!

JY: What do you want youth to get out of your workshops? 

BK: My goal is for youth to learn more about the design process as well as more comprehensive knowledge about other cultures and communities and their process in architecture and design.

A portrait of teaching artist Brian Kelley, who leads the Young Builders and Designers program

Thanks to Brian Kelley for taking the time to talk to us more about his life and work.

Join the Weisman Art Museum and Young Builders and Designers for a virtual Housing Design Competition. Young builders and makers (ages 9 – 13) will have the opportunity to use  LEGO® bricks, markers, crayons, colored pencils, Lincoln Logs, clay, and other materials to design and create a house and design its interior. Feb. 21, 1 – 3 p.m. and Mar. 19, 3 – 5 p.m. 

Register for the workshops now >>