Founder and President, Kearney and O'Banion, Inc., Sebastopol, CA
“I was always moved by art—emotionally and intellectually. I ended up believing that I could make a contribution as an artist. And that carried into business. What could be more of a contribution, I began to realize, than hiring people, than employing people? People need jobs, and very few people create jobs. People who create jobs are the backbone of this country. I ultimately grew my business for the same reason I make paintings—I thought I could make a real contribution.”
Kevin Kearney '74 never had any doubt he wanted to go to an art college. As a child, he admired his uncle’s art work, and spent four years studying intensely at Baltimore’s Calvert Hall College High School, where he says art changed his life—helping him develop a focus that dramatically raised his level of academic achievement. Once at MICA, he studied with incredible instructors, including Barry Nemett, who took Kearney under his wing.
Painting was, and remains, a passion for Kearney. It makes you look at the world differently, he says, and makes you take risks. His MICA education helped him perfect his ability to visualize, a skill he took with him into a concurrent real estate career. A shy kid, his skill in art helped him gain confidence, and the encouragement he got from his MICA professors helped him become even more assertive.
He renovated houses in Bolton Hill during college to help pay for school. After moving to the West Coast, he began a real estate development company to make enough money to allow him to paint professionally. He achieved acclaim as an artist, and at the same time, his company’s fortunes skyrocketed. Kearney eventually moved into real estate full time, and at its peak, Kearney’s company employed more than 120 people and generated $12 million in sales annually.
Though Kearney is a painter at heart, he runs a consulting business, a development business, works with a firm that helps take companies public, sits on the board of a cyber-security firm, is a book author, and is writing a screenplay . At 59 years of age, he is still “ hungry.” A s an artist , he says, he looks at life differently.
Today, in addition to everything else, Kearney is excited to get back to painting. At the same time, he is taking the time t o enjoy his wife, his son, and a sprawling estate nestled on rolling acres in Sonoma Valley, where he grows his own grapes to make wine. He has always been moved by art. He loves and collects great paintings. Ultimately, he believes that art inspires people to do great things.