RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Valentine Museum’s Richmond History Makers Award honors and celebrates the unsung work of individuals and organizations who strive to improve their communities.

One of this year’s honorees for the ‘Advancing Our Quality of Life‘ category is Francis Thompson, the Art Program Manager at JLL.

Thompson (Left) next to Mayor Levar Stoney at the Mickael Broth sculpture unveiling in the city

For 17 years, Thompson has managed a team that has maintained and expanded a contemporary art collection installed within office buildings throughout North America.

In the early part of his role with the collection, Thompson led the curatorial development of its rotating exhibition program that grew to multiple gallery shows a year — as well as expanding to an array of virtual programming.

The art experiences, in which Thompson participates, reflect the diversity and culture of the local artist community in partnership with non-profit organizations, local museums and university art departments.

Thompson is also a Longwood Center for the Arts Advisory Board Member and on Virginia Tech’s School of the Visual Arts Advancement Council.

“We do a lot of work to support students in the art department for both of those universities,” Thompson said. “I also volunteer for two fraternal organizations that are in Richmond, Virginia. One is the Knights of Columbus. We do a lot of fundraising and helping the community — like distributing free meals for people.”

Thompson describes his line of work as something that he can’t help but to be a part of. He said, “I just feel like I need to participate.”

Thompson’s volunteer work with Phi Gamma Delta’s Mu Pi chapter at VCU

“I don’t feel like I interact with these organizations to get something out of it. I just feel like it is the right thing to do,” Thompson said. “There is a lot of opportunity for innovation and giving back. I feel like contributing to everybody is a good thing to do.”

Thompson guest curated the BLM RVA virtual exhibition in February 2021 and has been involved with public art commissions in the city.

He said he does not take the honor of being a Richmond History Maker for granted.

“At the end of the day, I feel like it [this line of work] is really fulfilling. It makes me feel like I have done the right thing and that I have impacted folks in a positive way. In particular, I feel very close to the Phi Gamma Delta’s Mu Pi chapter at VCU,” Thompson said. “We work to build courageous leaders and professionals, and help them pursue what they want to be in their academic and professional life. To be able to contribute to that, even if it is in a small way, I feel is very important.”

Thompson’s volunteer work with Phi Gamma Delta’s Chi Eta chapter at WKU for their Bike4Alz ride from coast to coast