Virginia can be found most days painting at her studio in Kentuck Art Center in Northport, Alabama, although she also paints frequently at a summer home on Dauphin Island or in her studio in a restored 100-year-old barn in Paint Rock Valley in the Cumberland Mountain foothills on the Alabama-Tennessee border. She returned to her native state of Alabama in 2020 and lives in Tuscaloosa.
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Virginia graduated high school after serving as a model for on-going adult painting classes taught by her high school art teacher and participating in a summer-long program in the arts sponsored by The Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Entering the University of Alabama initially as an art major, Virginia was a member of the New College division there and was graduated with a major in Southern Culture and Folklife Studies. She became Program Officer of the Alabama Humanities Alliance and traveled the state working with local cultural and community groups. Later she served as the coordinator of the Community Education program of Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, and served on the Birmingham Mayor’s community board for cultural outreach.
Moving to Mississippi in 1989, Virginia accepted the position of Local Arts Program Director with the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC), travelling the state to support local arts councils.
After several years with MAC, Virginia was selected to serve as Executive Director of the ArtsAlliance of Jackson & Hinds County. She also served on the Mayor’s community advisory board, and worked with the Southern Arts Federation, the National Endowment for the Arts, corporations and sponsors to ensure funding for the organization. She worked to develop and oversee ArtsAlliance programs including an annual Jubilee JAM!, a three-day downtown arts and music festival with crowds approaching 25,000.
In 1999, Virginia took her creative talents into the studio full time. Working in various arts media, she won awards for her work in photography and clay. She had years of experience in painting in watercolor and acrylics, but after studying plein air painting at the Taos Art School Virginia settled into a full-time focus that continues today on painting exclusively in oils.
She is married to the writer Philip Shirley.