VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2017 Program Session
June 4 — July 26, 2017



VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2016 Program Session
June 4 — July 27, 2016



Program Description

The Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University is a supportive and rigorous residency program with an established track record of inspiring and developing artists within a hothouse environment. Based on our successful MFA program, this 7-week intensive program combines theory and practice through: seminars, studio visits, artist lectures, critiques, professional development and intensive studio time.

For nearly a decade, this groundbreaking program has attracted artists globally to help transform and hone their work and ideas. Participants come together for uninterrupted time to work in generous studios and engage in ongoing dialogue with internationally recognized artists, critics and curators. Hands-on commitment to the advancement of the participants by those leading the program is remarkable: it is what sets this opportunity apart.

This two-month residency is ideal for artists developing a portfolio for application to graduate school, as well as those interested in uninterrupted studio immersion with charged feedback inside a stimulating and supportive atmosphere.

What Alumni Have to say

Many of the program’s alumni have gone on to some of the most prestigious graduate programs and residencies in the country. Past program alumni have noted:

“The impact such a short period of time has had on my practice, as well as my social and intellectual life is something I could not have foreseen. I'm sure it will continue to shape my life for years to come.”
“I'm so glad SSP encouraged us to create our own support systems rather than relying on institutions. SSP confronted me with ideas and realities that have made me more confident artist with smarter convictions.”
“SSP will completely shatter your idea of art-making and then rebuild a completely new, more developed, socially and politically responsible practice to launch you far into the future.”
“The feedback I got in this program was the most respectful I feel that I've ever gotten because it didn't sugarcoat, protect, or simply give participation points: my work was taken seriously and held to a standard I hadn't yet been held to in undergrad. It was also expected that I be able to filter through the opinions and take what feedback would push my work the most, a necessary ability moving forward in my career. I learned so much from the many trustworthy voices I encountered at VCU SSP– from both teachers and peers– about my work, my studio practice, and my career as an artist. I come away from SSP with a better understanding of my own work, of contemporary art as a whole, and with a strong network of close friends I found in the other driven and talented artists I met here.”
“SSP can be (and should be) challenging but worthy of participation. Expect to be right, wrong and confused but try to trust the pedagogy and keep an open mind about everything you experience while there. It will make sense perhaps not immediately, but later as a library of pertinent resources.”


2017 Core Faculty

Michael Jones McKean
MICHAEL JONES MCKEAN (b. 1976, Micronesia, lives / works New York City) is the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Nancy Graves Foundation Award and an Artadia Award. McKean has been awarded fellowships and residencies at The Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The MacDowell Colony, The International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York City, The Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in New York City.
McKean’s work has been exhibited extensively nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston: Parc Saint Leger Centre d’art Contemporain, Nevers, France: Horton Gallery, New York, NY: The Quebec Biennale, Quebec City, Canada: Gentili Apri, Berlin, Germany: The Art Foundation, Athens, Greece: Inman Gallery, Houston, TX: Parisian Laundry, Montreal, Canada: Project Gentili, Prato, Italy: Shenkar University, Tel Aviv, Israel: The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX among many others.
McKean is currently an Associate Professor in the Sculpture + Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University where he has taught since 2006 and is Co-Director of ASMBLY based in New York City.
Irvin Morazan
IRVIN MORAZAN is a multidisciplinary artist born in EL Salvador and moved to New York City area in the 1980s as part of the Salvadoran civil war diaspora. He is currently an Assistant Professor at VCU Sculpture + Extended Media. Morazan utilizes performance, sculpture and video to explore fictional and autobiographical rituals that are sparked by current events, migration, ancient medicine, indigenous cultures and his autobiography.
Morazan has performed and has presented his work extensively throughout the past few years in venues such as El Museo Del Barrio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Jersey City Museum, Masur Museum of Art, Caribbean Museum (Colombia), MARTE Museum (El Salvador), Mercosur Biennial (Brazil), Central America Biennial X ( Costa Rica), XI Nicaragua Biennial (Nicaragua), Performa 11, Performa 13, Saud Haus (Berlin) and Exit Art. Residencies include: LMCC Workspace, SOMA (Mexico City), and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
His work has been recognized by numerous awards and fellowships including, Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, the VCU Fountainhead Fellowship, Dedalus Foundation Fellowship, Art Matters Grant, VMFA 2017, Cisneros Foundation Travel Grant, The Robert Mapplethorpe Award for Photography and a Creative Capital Grant.
Christine Navin
Christine Navin (b. 1986, New York) is a Brooklyn-based Cuban American artist. She holds a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and M.F.A. from the Virginia Commonwealth University. Her recent solo exhibitions include Madam I’m Adam, 315 Gallery, and Septillion, Flowerbox Projects, Miami, FL. The Last Brucennial curated by Vito Schnabel and The Bruce High Quality Foundation, New York, NY (2014), Emerge, Page Bond Gallery, Richmond, VA (2014), High Lure Image Content, curated by Julie Grosche, Kappa Theta Phi Gallery, Richmond, VA (2014), Live Amateurs, curated by Craig Drennan, Mint Gallery, Atlanta, GA, and New Waves, MOCA: Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach, VA (2013). She is the recipient of The Vermont Studio Center fellowship with publications including Fjord’s Review Vol. 2 Issue 4 (2014), and New American Painting: MFA Issue #111 (2014).
Matt King
Matt King (b. 1973, Massachusetts) is Chair of the VCU Department of Sculpture + Extended Media. He received his MFA from Bard College and is a graduate of Cooper Union and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Honors include a 2012-2013 VMFA Visual Arts Fellowship, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and visiting artist residencies at Fiskars Village, Finland, NCCA in St. Petersburg, Russia, and at the American Academy in Rome. He lives and works in Richmond, VA.
King’s work examines the strangeness of everyday objects, and how their definition, production and circulation intersect with lived experience. His work in sculpture, photography, and drawing has been shown in solo exhibitions at The Massachusetts College of Art and Design, The University of Georgia, Werkstätte (NY), Massimo Audiello (NY), Reynolds Gallery (Richmond, VA) and Fourteen30 Contemporary (Portland, OR) as well as group exhibitions at Jane Lombard, Guild & Greyshkul, Luhring Augustine, Stux Gallery, and the Vienna Kunsthalle.

2017 Visiting Faculty

Cara Benedetto
Cara Benedetto is an artist and writer. She received an MFA from Columbia University. Her writing has been published with Badlands, C Magazine, Sleek Magazine, Area Sneaks, Qui Parle, The Third Rail, and Halmos. She is the author of two experimental romance novels, and editor of Contemporary Print Handbook, a printmaking textbook for Universities. Her work has been shown at MOCA Cleveland, MOMA Warsaw, The Jewish Museum, NY, and Metro Pictures, NY. She is represented by Chapter NY, and Night Gallery, LA.She is an Assistant Professor in print media at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Christopher K. Ho
Hong Kong-born Christopher K. Ho employs diverse formats to explore often-invisible social forces implicating contemporary art. His solo show Demoiselles d'Avignon (2013, Y Gallery, NY) refracted Western abstraction through the eyes of a future class of refined Chinese princelings, while Privileged White People (2013, Forever & Today, NY) examined the sensibility of artists who grew up during the affluent Clinton presidency. He has had solo exhibitions at Winkleman Gallery, NY (2010, 2008); FJORD, Philadelphia (2013); and Galeria EDS, Mexico City (2009).
His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, Modern Painters, Artforum, and ArtReview. He participated in the Incheon Biennial (2009), the Chinese Biennial Beijing (2008), and the Busan Bienniale (2008), and produced site-specific pieces for Storm King (2013) and the Cranbrook Art Museum (2011), where he was the 2010 Critical Studies Fellow. He currently teaches at RISD. His forthcoming solo show, Saint Joe, opens at Present Company, NY, in May.
Amber J. Esseiva
Amber J. Esseiva is the Curatorial Assistant at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She holds a B.A. in Art History (2009) from VCU and has worked in several arts institutions in Richmond, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and VCU School of the Arts Anderson Gallery. In 2012, she was a guest curator at VCUQ in Doha, Qatar. Esseiva received her M.A. in 2015 from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard). At CCS Bard, she curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions featuring works by seminal artists such as David Altmejd, Louisa Chase, Roe Ethridge, Gabriel Orozco, Jason Rhoades, Mika Rottenberg, Kenny Scharf, and Avery K. Singer. She also cofounded the interdisciplinary curatorial journal aCCeSsions and was appointed the curator of the 2014 M.F.A. graduate thesis exhibition.
Michael Assiff
Michael Assiff (b. 1983, Florida) is an artist who lives and works in Queens, NY. He received a BFA in 2008 from Rhode Island School of Design. His last two solo shows, Ozone Flowers at Mascota, Mexico City and Remediation Flowers at First Continent, MD have explored bioremediation, gentrification, environmental racism and the carbon market. Other solo shows including Hangry at Shoot the Lobster, NY; FRESH AIRE at Good Weather, AR; and Aqueduct at University of the Arts, PA have explored themes of veganism, colonialism, toxic masculinity and plasticization of the water. He has been included in group shows at Room East, NY; Jack Hanley, NY; Balice Hertling, Paris; Salon 94, Bowery, NY and Martos Gallery, CA. Curatorial projects include F.E.D.S. at American Medium, NY and a recent presentation at NADA NY with Motel. Upcoming shows include a three person show with Jonathan Santoro and Rachel Lord at High Tide, PA; a two person show with Dennis Witkin at Hotel-art, NY; and a solo show at Valentin, Paris - where the artist is currently represented.
Hesse McGraw
Hesse McGraw is a curator and writer and is Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute. During his tenure at SFAI, the institution’s public face has been revitalized through residencies that reveal the artistic process to public audiences, innovative approaches to artist-driven community engagement. These commissions include residencies with Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Mariana Castillo Deball, and Katrín Sigurdardóttir; and Jill Magid’s recent project The Proposal, which has been hailed as a “thunderclap of an exhibition.” From 2008 to 2013 he served as chief curator at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, where he developed an exhibition program focused on site-specific, immersive, cross-disciplinary, and socially engaged projects. At the Bemis Center he produced two dozen exhibitions, including major public projects with artists Theaster Gates and Michael Jones McKean. Hesse was formerly associate director of Max Protetch gallery in New York, and was the founding director and curator of Paragraph, which operates under the non-profit Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. He lectures widely and his writing has recently been published in Afterall, Art Papers, Outpost and in diverse exhibition catalogues. Recent awards and grants include an Andy Warhol Foundation Curatorial Research Fellowship, an ArtPlace America grant, an IMLS grant, a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artistic Innovation and Collaboration Grant, NEA Our Town and Art Works grants, and a Harpo Foundation grant.
Amber Hawk Swanson
Amber Hawk Swanson (b. 1980) is a New York-based artist born in Davenport, Iowa. Her work deals with how the psychological debt of love animates us in a social-emotional economy. Recent exhibitions and screenings include Palais de Tokyo (Paris, France); Denny Gallery (New York, NY); Momenta Art (Brooklyn, NY); and Locust Projects (solo, Miami, FL). Hawk Swanson’s seminars and residencies include New Museum Seminar: SPECULATION (New York, NY); Yaddo (Saratoga Springs, NY); MacDowell (Peterborough, NH); Sharpe-Walentas (Brooklyn, NY); Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME). Recent scholarly writing on her work have been published in GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies (2015 & 2012) and Theatre Drama Review (TDR, 2012). Hawk Swanson's work has additionally been profiled and reviewed in the Guardian (2014), Chicago Tribune (2011), and Associated Press (2007). Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, IL). Hawk Swanson holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Studio Arts, 2006) and is a recipient of a 2015 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Artist Community Engagement Grant and a 2014 Franklin Furnace Fund Grant. She currently teaches in the Sculpture Department of Rhode Island School of Design, RISD (Providence, RI).
Elizabeth Orr
Elizabeth Orr (b. 1984, Los Angeles, CA) is a filmmaker and artist. She has recently completed a near-future science-fiction film MT RUSH and is working towards her second solo show in September 2017 at Bodega in NYC. Her work has been shown internationally, including Artists Space Books and Talks, Anthology Film Archive, Recess, ICA Philadelphia, and she has been commissioned by MOCAtv and the Carpenter Center at Harvard University. She holds an MFA with Honors from Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Ridley Howard
Ridley Howard was born in 1973 in Atlanta. He received his BA and BFA from the University of Georgia, Athens, and his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He currently shows with Marinaro Gallery, NY; Andréhn-Schiptjenko Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden; and Frederic Snitzer Gallery, Miami. His paintings were most recently on view in his May 2017 solo exhibition at Marinaro Gallery NY, as well as the Atlanta Biennial at the Contemporary and Intimisms at James Cohan Gallery, NY. He is also co-founder of gallery 106 Green in Brooklyn, NY. He has received awards from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Joan Mitchell Foundation as well as the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Past Faculty and Visitors


Julie Grosche
Julie Grosche (b.1986, France) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, and is a graduate of Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Art in Dijon, France. Her work has appeared internationally and has recently shown at Galerie Escougnou Cetraro, Paris; Favorite Goods, Los Angeles, CA; Kappa Theta Phi, Richmond, VA; Emerson-Dorsch, Miami, FL; L’Atelier KSR, Berlin, Germany; Era VI VII VI, New York, NY; SPACES, Cleveland, OH. As a curator she has produced exhibitions internationally: based in Berlin, Berlin, Germany; Reference Gallery, Richmond, VA; and Oslo10, Basel, Switzerland. She co-founded PMgalerie in Berlin, Bcc an itinerant curatorial platform and ASMBLY based in NYC. She teaches and is the director the Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University.



Artists with undergraduate degrees who want to develop a body of work to serve as a portfolio for application to excellent graduate programs.

Artists with undergraduate degrees who are interested in further developing studio work and critical thinking in a creative professional environment.

Artists, perhaps farther along in their careers, who wish to participate in a critical dialogue to push their work to the next level.

Please note
The Summer Studio Program is progressive; students using traditional media as well as those who work in electronic media, performance, installation, conceptual and experimental hybrid forms are invited to apply.


Each week of the program includes group critiques, individual studio visits and a rigorous seminar: a focal point for group discussion of contemporary ideas, theory and issues based on readings and events. All of this is in addition to plenty of studio time.

  • Group Critiques
  • Individual Studio Visits
  • Seminar/Theory
  • Workshop professional practices (including preparing for graduate school, artist statement).

Also mixed in the calendar are numerous visiting artist lectures and studio visits, museum and gallery field trips. The last week includes exit reviews by SSP@VCU faculty and a culminating on-campus exhibition of work produced during the program.


Participants have 24-hour access to a 114,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility housed at the VCUarts Fine Arts Building near downtown Richmond, Virginia. Participants have the use of painting studios, woodshop, metal studio, mold making studio, computer lab and video editing facilities as well as University Library privileges and Wi-Fi access. Technical assistance is provided in the sculpture shops and computer lab.

Please note the foundry and print making studio are not running over the summer.

Click here to view Painting Facilities
Click here to view Sculpture Facilities


  • Work full time in their VCU studios for the duration of the program.
  • Participate in all seminars, critiques, reviews and events.
  • Participate in the exit exhibition (including planning, installation, lighting, etc.)
  • Produce photographic documentation of work done during the summer program.


Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is a diverse cultural city, surrounded by historic neighborhoods, parks and the James River — home to one of the largest inner city park systems in the country. The city consistently ranks among "Best Places to Live and Work in America." Richmond is ideally located within easy reach of Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.

Near the center of downtown is Virginia Commonwealth University, a tier one public research university with over 31,000 students and 222 degree and certificate programs spread throughout its 13 schools and colleges. VCUarts, with over 3100 students is one is the largest schools in the University and is ranked as the #1 public university for art and design in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Students can find nearby, off-campus housing during the program. Students are responsible for arranging their living situation. Sublets range in price and availability, for a general overview of prices see Craigslist Richmond. You should plan to spend between $500 and $800 for a bedroom in a shared apartment or in a private one.

Program Fee

Fee: $4,950

A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to students whose work is of exceptional quality. All students will be considered for these scholarships during the application process.


Email your application to in one folder labeled with the program of your choice and your name (Sculpture_Firstname_Lastname) or (PaintPrint_Firstname_Lastname). In the folder put only two PDFs:
  • PDF 1: Ten images of recent work with title, year, medium and dimensions listed under each images, videos can be sent to via google drive.
  • PDF 2: One-page artist’s statement + CV/resume including name, date of birth, address, telephone number and e-mail address + Two references (no letters) with name, title if applicable, phone number and email contact.
Mail your fee:
  • Application fee of $25 - Check payable to VCU SSP to this address:

    VCU Summer Studio Program
    P.O. Box 843005
    1000 W. Broad Street Room #351
    Richmond, VA 23284-3005


Julie Grosche, Program Director at

Applications that are incomplete, unreadable, late, or fail to meet the above requirements will not be submitted to the jury.

Please Note
  • There is no application form.
  • Apply EITHER to Sculpture + Extended Media or Painting & Printmaking.
  • If you wish to apply to both departments, submit two separate applications and application fees.
  • All checks and mail must be addressed to VCU Summer Studio Program.
  • We request proof of health insurance; if you are unable to provide proof of health insurance you will need to sign a release and waiver of liability form.
  • SSP fosters artistic growth; university credit is not available. While program graduates may apply for admission to VCU’s MFA programs, SSP is not a portal to admission.
  • There is no financial aid available for SSP.


2016 PROGRAM SESSION: JUNE 4 – JULY 26, 2017


  • Deadline for Application: April 14, 2017
  • Notification of Acceptance: End of April
  • Program deposit $200: May 8th, 2017
  • Program Fee due $4,750: May 22, 2017
  • Program Session: June 4 – July 26, 2017
  • Orientation: Sunday, June 4, 2017


Contact Julie Grosche, Program Director at