William Kelly (artist)

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William Joseph Kelly OAM (born 1943, died 21/07/2023) was an American/Australian artist, humanist and human-rights advocate.

William and Veronica Kelly called the small town of Nathalia home for the past 20+ years.


William Kelly was born in Buffalo, New York in 1943, and received his artistic training at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the National Gallery School in Melbourne, Victoria (Australia), his country of part-time residence since 1968.[1] He is also a Fulbright Fellow for which he studied at Prahran College of Advanced Education

Artist and writer[edit]

In addition to creating traditional prints, drawings and paintings, Kelly has organized and participated in collaborations in public art and theatre. Kelly promotes his humanist ideals in his art, for example; in response to a 1987 mass murder in Melbourne, Kelly spent five years on works for an installation titled "The Peace Project." "The Peace Project" was first exhibited in 1993 in both Melbourne and Boston, Massachusetts. It was the first visual art project to receive the Australian Violence Prevention Award. His work has been exhibited in over 20 countries with a current installation in Guernica, Spain and current traveling group exhibitions throughout Europe and also South Africa (representing Australia in the Dialogue Among Civilizations International Print Portfolio organized to coincide with the cultural activities of the 2010 FIFA World Cup).

Kelly authored an anthology, Violence to Nonviolence: Individual Perspectives, Communal Voices,[2] that was published in 1994. His artwork has also appeared in other books, such as Cultures of Crime and Violence: The Australian Experience[3] and "Women's Encounters with Violence.[4]

In 2000 Kelly founded the Archive of Humanist Art, which highlights prints and drawings of artists from all over the world that address humanist concerns. Kelly is acknowledged for the contribution his work makes to the areas of human rights, social justice and reconciliation both nationally and internationally – with projects linked to the Basque Country, Spain; Robben Island, site of the notorious prison that once held Nelson Mandela; the Republic of Georgia and Northern Ireland.

He had studios in Melbourne, Nathalia (his last home) and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Kelly's artworks are reproduced in publications worldwide and are represented in over 40 public and corporate collections.

“Can Art Stop a Bullet” a full length feature film was a major undertaking by Mark Street, documenting Bill’s life and commitment to the peace movement, they travelled to many countries.

Kelly, along with his partner Veronica Kelly (ceramics) initiated The G.R.A.I.N. Store in Nathalia, Australia. The gallery, workshop and performing space has been running successfully for the past 13 years. Growing Rural Arts in Nathalia is role model for small country towns.


Kelly was Dean (1975–1982) of the Victorian College of the Arts[5] following Lenton Parr. He has delivered guest lectures at Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The New York Studio School and others in Europe, South Africa, North America, Eastern Europe, Australasia. He currently lives and works in Nathalia in regional Victoria, where in 2010 he established the G.R.A.I.N. Store (Growing Rural Art in Nathalia) , a not-for-profit rural arts centre with a regular schedule of exhibitions, performances and workshops by visiting, local and indigenous emerging and established creative artists.


For his role as an international artist, humanist, human rights advocate, and founder of the Archive of Humanist Art [1], Kelly received the Courage of Conscience Award [2] from The Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts [3].

He was recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) (for Services to Visual Arts and Urban Design).[6] He is Founding and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Founding Member of the Urban Design Forum, and former member of the Board of the Australian Print Workshop.


  1. ^ Buckrich, Judith Raphael; Buckrich, J; Prahran Mechanics' Institute (2007), Design for living : a history of 'Prahran Tech', Prahran Mechanics' Institute Press, ISBN 978-0-9756000-8-5
  2. ^ Kelly, William (Ed.) 1994. Violence to non-violence : individual perspectives, communal voices : an anthology, with prints from the Peace Project. Camberwell, Vic. : Harwood Academic Publishers ; Craftsman House. ISBN 976-8097-88-4 (Craftsman House) 3718654679 (Harwood Academic Publishers)
  3. ^ Judith Bessant, Kerry Carrington and Sandy Cook [eds.] Cultures of crime and violence : the Australian experience. Bundoora, Vic : La Trobe University Press, 1995.
  4. ^ Sandy Cook, Judith Bessant [editors]. Women's encounters with violence : Australian experiences. Thousand Oaks : Sage Publications, c1997.
  5. ^ Pascoe, Joseph (Editor). 2000. Creating the Victorian College of the Arts. Palgrave Macmillan Australia
  6. ^ "KELLY, William Joseph". honours.pmc.gov.au. Retrieved 2018-07-05.

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