The Department of Art History, located on VCU’s Monroe Park campus, is adjacent to a historic neighborhood, known as The Fan because the streets create a fan shape extending west, away from the campus and toward The Museum District, defined by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Historical Society. Upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students live in historic neighborhoods within walking or bicycling distance of campus and beyond.
Richmond is a compact city—fewer than four miles stretch between the western edge of the Museum District to the east end of downtown. As an urban center, it is very much characterized by creative energy and activity. The Arts District extends just east of campus and includes the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art, now under construction (slated to open in 2016), and several art galleries, as well as locally owned restaurants. Galleries are also located elsewhere in the city, as are venues for live music, theater, cinema, and dance—all of which undoubtedly contribute to the fact that Richmond tops the list of 10 happiest metropolitan areas with a population greater than 1 million, in a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Richmond is also ranked among the best river cities in America, by Outside magazine. The James River, located minutes from downtown, is popular among kayakers and swimmers. Its banks offer mountain-biking and running trails as well as host sites for annual music, food and cultural festivals. Sites of diverse historical significance are also situated along the river.
The abundance of outdoor activities, arts events, and cultural organizations compel many VCU alumni to remain in Richmond, in part because of the professional networks that they build during their years in school. Forbes has ranked Richmond among the 10 best cities for finding employment.