Current Art History Graduate Students

Graduate students contribute significantly to the scholarly community within the department. As members of Art History Graduate Students Association (AHGSA), they organize an annual program of guest speakers, professional development workshops, and social events. This important suite of events fosters professional relationships among graduate students, faculty, museum professionals, alumni, and colleagues at other universities and/or in other fields.

Through their monthly meetings, the AHGSA also gathers input about departmental decisions that concern graduate students, such as requests for new technology (e.g., computers, printers, scanners) and policies/procedures for the Graduate Lab, which is a dedicated work space shared by all graduate students. AHGSA officers, who are elected each year, administer the association, while opportunities to serve on event planning committees are available to all members.

Current Graduate Students

Alexis Atkinson, M.A. Accelerated Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Museum Education, Interdisciplinary/Transdisciplinary Arts, and 19th-Century European Art
Education: A.A., John Tyler Community College (Liberal Arts); B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University (Art History, 2022)

Alexis Atkinson is a first-year M.A. accelerated student in Art History on the Museum Studies track, an assistant instructional tutor in English and Art History at John Tyler Community College, and a peer mentor for the VCU Mellon Pathways Program. Her research is mainly geared towards museum education and art’s appearance and interaction within other disciplines. She also has an interest in 19th-Century European Art. In the Spring of 2022, Alexis will receive her B.A. in Art History at VCU. In 2020, she received her A.A. in Liberal Arts. Alexis also enjoys creating her own artworks in her free time.

Ajana Bradshaw, M.A. Student, Concentration in Museum Studies 
Research Interests: Conservation/Museum Studies/African American Art
Education: B.A. Virginia Commonwealth University in African American Studies & History 

Ajana Bradshaw is a first-year MA student in the Art History program. Ajana received her Bachelor of Arts from VCU in African American Studies and History. During her undergraduate career, Ajana was selected to intern at The Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The Valentine internship allowed Ajana to gain helpful experience and a passion for museum work. In Ajana’s free time, she collect records, goes antiquing, and enjoys Richmond with her family and friends. She looking forward to continuing her education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sarah Ann Campbell, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Research Interests: 20th & 21st Century Visual Culture and Curatorial Methods
Education: B.A., B.F.A., University of Tennessee
M.A., New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts

Sarah Ann Campbell is a MA/PHD student and teaching assistant whose research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first century visual culture and curatorial methods. She began pursuing her MA in Art History at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, holds a BA in Art History and a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee, and earned a certificate in Introduction to Textile Preservation (instructed by Harold Mailand) from the International Preservation Studies Center in Illinois. Sarah was the Curator of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s art collection from 2013 to 2016 and is currently the Curator of the Virginia National Guard Museum. She has been interviewed by Hyperallergic (March 2015) and Spectrum News NY1 (May 2016) and co-authored an article on World War I campaign hats with Alexander Barnes in Military Trader (May 2017). Sarah enjoys giving community lectures and recently presented her talk When Preservation is Personal to the Daughters of the American Revolution and to the Mathews Memorial Library to share how to adapt museum preservation strategies for historic objects and archives in one’s home.

Samantha Karam Encarnacion, Ph.D. Student
Research Interests: 20th Century American and European Art
Education: B.A., Old Dominion University;
M.A., Virginia Commonwealth University

Samantha is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant whose research focuses on early- to mid-twentieth century American and European art, especially on theories of modernism and the avant-garde. Samantha is also interested in animal theory, feminist theory, and surrealist scholarship, which she incorporated into her 2013 master’s thesis, “Art and Becoming-Animal: Reconceptualizing the Animal Imagery in Dorothea Tanning’s Post-1955 Paintings.” As she begins her doctoral work, Samantha is expanding her research interests to include archival theory and practice, which she anticipates will form the basis of her dissertation.

Elizabeth Ezzelle, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: 19th and 20th Century Western art, Museum Studies, History of Collecting and Provenance
Education: B.A., Richmond, the American International University in London

Elizabeth Ezzelle is a first-year MA student and teaching assistant in the museum studies concentration. Her focuses explore 19th and 20th century American and European art, particularly in the contexts of museum collecting and provenance. She received a B.A. in Art History and Visual Culture with a minor in Film Studies from Richmond, the American International University in London in the United Kingdom. Elizabeth’s undergraduate dissertation focused on the power of portraiture for queen monarchs throughout British history. Her past work experiences include the Old Royal Naval College in London, as well as the Valentine and Maymont in Richmond. More recently, Elizabeth served as an education volunteer in Mongolia through the Peace Corps. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and photography.

Nana Adwoa Nyamekye Ferdnance, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: African Diaspora in the Americas, Modern and Contemporary Art and Interactive Exhibits
Education: B.S. in Art History and Environmental Studies, Randolph-Macon College

Nana is a first-year MA student in the Art History program. Nana received her Bachelor of Science in Art History and Environmental Studies from Randolph-Macon College. Nana’s passion for the arts reignited when she started volunteering at the Hampton University Museum as a volunteer and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art as a gallery teacher. The volunteer opportunities included educating K-12 students about contemporary and local artists through guided tours and cataloguing the African, African American and Native American collections for Hampton University. Nana’s goals include creating interactive exhibits experiences for modern and contemporary artists using virtual and augmented reality. She intends to gain certifications tailored towards interactive exhibits in programming, such as python, Unity and UX Design, in addition to her master’s degree. 

Brooke Heiche, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Latin American and Latina/o/x Art
Education: B.A., James Madison University

Brooke Heiche is a second year M.A. Art History student on the Museum Studies track. She received a B.A. in Art History from James Madison University where she interned for the Lisanby Museum within their curatorial and collections management departments. Additionally, she served as a teaching assistant for NYC: Global Arts Capital study abroad program where she helped lead the undergraduates and also studied various conservation techniques on both older paintings and contemporary pieces. From this program, she presented her research, Conservation Controversies: Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon, at JMU’s 2019 Art History forum.From her research at VCU she will be presenting Depicting Soldaderas: War-Torn Imagery and Appropriation at the Lexington, KY SECAC 2021 conference within Feminist Geneologies in Recent Latin American Art. Currently, she serves as the Development and Advancement intern for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Anna Jennings, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Surrealism in Latin America
Education: B.A., James Madison University

Anna Jennings is an MA student and graduate teaching assistant with a concentration in Museum Studies. She is undergoing an art collections based internship with the Arts in Healthcare program at VCU Health. During her undergraduate career, Anna completed a senior capstone project on medieval Jerusalem and its sculpted Golden Gate through the Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader periods, which was achieved with the help of a university research grant to cover travel and on-site research in Jerusalem. She presented this research at JMU’s annual Art History Forum and received the 2018 Art History Forum Award. Anna acted as a gallery director for both Madison Union Art Galleries and Artworks Gallery at JMU. Additionally, she has interned and worked for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Anna’s current academic research is centered around the 1940 International Exhibition of Surrealism in Mexico City.

Sarah Edith Kleinman, Ph.D. Candidate, Curatorial Track
Research Interests: Modern and Contemporary Art in a Global Context, Museum Studies
Education: B.A., Political Science, Art History, Studio Art, University of Colorado at Boulder
M.A., Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University

Sarah Edith Kleinman is an Art History PhD candidate and adjunct professor. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art and museum studies. Her dissertation investigates the curatorial practices and exhibitions of Kynaston McShine, who is best known for organizing the first museum surveys in America of minimalism and conceptual art. Her area of specialization is twentieth- and twenty-first-century art in a global context, with a special interest in post-colonial, feminist, and literary theory. She is also interested in the intersections of political science and art history, which she incorporated into her 2016 master’s thesis, “Hans Haacke’s GERMANIA: Deconstructing the Historical Germanies.” Sarah interned in the Director’s Office and Curatorial Department at the VMFA. She has also worked as an independent digital archivist and conservator for artists Rubin Peacock, Myron Helfgott, and Marty Johnson. In the summer of 2019, she joined Reynolds Gallery to research and organize the exhibition Theresa Pollak: The Wonder of Life, which commemorated the 90th anniversary of VCUarts. Among many awards and grants, Sarah is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship to Trinidad and Tobago and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Graduate Fellowship for Art History for 2018–2019.

Errol Nelson, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: 18th & 19th Century American and European Art
Education: B.A., University of Florida

Errol Nelson is a second-year M.A. student in Art History on the Museum Studies track, a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Art History, and the Vice President of the Art History Graduate Student Association. During his first year at VCU, his research and scholarly activities were generously supported by the Frederika and Paul Jacobs Graduate Merit Award in Art History. Informed by his committed service as a community activist and organizer, his research focuses on increasing diversity in museums, display of African-American Art, conceptions of race, and post-colonial discourses in the transatlantic art world. In 2020, he received a B.A. in History with a minor in Art History from the University of Florida, where he interned at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and was a proud member of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. 

Abigail Ramsbottom, M.A. in Historical Studies Track
Research Interests: Contemporary Art, Carceral Aesthetics 
Education: B.A., Stetson University

My research addresses carceral aesthetics, the visual rendition of imprisonment and the surrounding concepts of punishment and (un)freedom, in contemporary art of the United States. I am a second-year Art History MA student in the Historical Studies concentration. I work through the lens of a prison abolitionist with the aim to contribute to the topic of abolition in the art history field. In 2018, I received a B.A. in Art History and Spanish Language at Stetson University in Florida. I worked as a Gallery Assistant for four years, then Coordinator for a year at the Hand Art Center in DeLand, Florida. As part of my passion for working in community learning spaces, I have been teaching English to speakers of other languages for five years at La Casa Cultural Latina in Florida. An integral incitement in my research in carceral aesthetics is from a year (2019-2020) that I worked for the Community Education Project, a college program for students at Tomoka Correctional Institution. 

Kassidy Strosnider, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Classical Art and Architecture 
Education: B.A., Washington and Lee University 

Kassidy is a first-year M.A. student in Art History on the Museum Studies Track. She received her B.A. from Washington and Lee University in Classics while also minoring in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies as well as Medieval and Renaissance studies. While in undergrad, she was awarded the Thomas V. Litzenburg Jr. Prize for her work as a collections assistant within the Museums at W&L and as an intern at the Staniar Gallery, where she helped execute multiple exhibitions. Her interest in the Ancient Attic Greek language and Art History intersect in her senior thesis “Making Sense of Nonsense Inscriptions on Attic Pottery,” where she explores the possible explanations of inscriptions on pottery that seem to have no modern translation. After completing her undergraduate degree, Kassidy spent a year working at MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA.

Kate Sunderlin, Ph.D. Candidate, Curatorial Studies Track
Research Interests: American Art, Nineteenth-Century Art, with a particular focus on sculpture
Education: B.A., Pepperdine University (Art History), M.A.s from the University of Notre Dame (Art History) and the University of Oklahoma (Museum Studies)

Kate is a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University and is currently writing her dissertation on how plaster objects in Edward V. Valentine’s studio and the early Valentine museum play into the critical and art historical discussion surrounding the repercussions of racism, slavery, colonialism, and empire. She is acting as a consultant for the Valentine Museum’s reinterpretation of Edward Valentine’s studio in order to address its problematic narratives and redeploy the space as a location for community conversations about Lost Cause public art and mythologies, the Jim Crow era, and their continuing impact on the city of Richmond. She balances work on her dissertation and as a museum consultant with her work at the B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry, a business she co-owns with her husband. She runs the tour program, introducing guests to the field of campanology – the study of bells – as well as the daily workings of an active bronze foundry. 

Camryn Whaley, M.A Student, Concentration in Historical Studies
Research Interests: Intersectional Visual Culture, Diasporic Art, Interactive Art
Education: B.A. in English, Appalachian State University

Camryn Whaley is a first-year M.A. student in Art History on the Historical Studies track. Camryn discovered her passion for art history during her undergraduate career at Appalachian State University, where she minored in the field. Her research focuses heavily on intersectionality and identity, and the ways in which race, class, gender, sexuality, and other lived experiences influence art and artists globally. Her other research interests include art created in diasporas, specifically that of Oceania, as well as interactive art, temporary art, and sustainable art. In her free time, Camryn enjoys exploring the city of Richmond and its fantastic museums and restaurants, live music, and cooking.