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
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.
Brooke Heiche, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Latin American and Latino/a Art
Education: B.A., James Madison University
Brooke Heiche is a 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. Currently, she serves as a graduate teaching assistant for VCU’s Department of Art History, where she assists in creating a new general education course.
Anna Jennings, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Surrealism and Museum Studies
Education: B.A., James Madison University
Anna Jennings is an MA student and graduate teaching assistant with a concentration in Museum Studies. 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 is currently delving into the study of Surrealism as well as Museum Studies.
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.
Grayson A. Mills, M.A. Historical Studies Track
Research Interests: Intersectionality in 21st Century Visual Culture
Education: B.A., North Carolina State University
Grayson Aleksandr Mills is a MA student with a concentration in Historical Studies. He received his BA from North Carolina State University in Visual Art Studies in 2019 where he interned at VAE Raleigh, worked on the literary magazine Windhover, and showed his personal artwork in the exhibition Fluxus Action: Chance, Randomness, and Uncertainty. Currently his studies focus on identity and the politics of the body in 21st century art. However, his research interests also include Ukiyo-e art, sexuality and gender in Rococo art, international Pop as a dialogue on capitalism and violence, the dichotomy of high and low art, and the use of symbolism and color in Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu iconographic art.
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 first-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 Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Contemporary Art, Carceral Studies, Museums as institutions
Education: B.A., Stetson University
Abigail is a first-year MA student in the Museum Studies concentration. Their research centers on contemporary art with a focus on carceral studies and aesthetics. Abigail works through the lens of a prison abolitionist, considering the interactions between museums, media, incarceration, and artists who are experiencing or have experienced incarceration. In 2018, Abigail received a B.A. in Art History and Spanish Language at Stetson University in Florida. Abigail worked as a Gallery Assistant for four years, then Coordinator for a year at the Hand Art Center in DeLand, Florida. Abigail has taught English to speakers of other languages for four years and volunteered for a year at Tomoka Correctional Institution’s Community Education Project, a college in prison program. In their personal life, Abigail enjoys cold-process soapmaking and learning crafts.
Damon Reed, M.A. Student, Historical Studies Track & Graduate Certificate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Research Interests: Feminist and Queer Discourses in European and Latin American Modernisms
Education: B.A., Randolph-Macon College
Damon is a second-year M.A. student in Art History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. He also serves as a graduate teaching assistant for the Department of Art History. His research examines and the often problematic representation of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality in the cultural production of twentieth and twenty-first century Europe and Latin America. During his tenure at VCU, Damon has been accepted to present at various academic conferences including SECAC, the Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies, and the Mountain Interstate Foreign Language Conference. His culminating project for his M.A. focuses on the intersections of style, sexuality, gender, degeneracy, and politics in the Weimar and Nazi eras, as it relates to the work of Christian Schad, as well as the destructive—even deadly—racial hygiene policies integral to the label of “degeneracy” in Nazi Germany. In 2019, he received a B.A. in Spanish and Women’s Studies with a minor in Art History from the collegiate honors program at Randolph-Macon College.
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.
Charlotte Torrence, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Museum Participation and Natural Historical Art
Education: B.A., St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Charlotte is a second-year MA student on the Museum Studies track, a graduate assistant and early childhood education adjunct faculty at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the assistant director of the Graduate and Professional Student Programming Board at VCU. In 2018, she received a B.A. in Art History with a minor in German from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she was the student fellow of ship preservation and education in Historic St. Mary’s City. Charlotte spent a year studying abroad at the University of Heidelberg in Germany and lived in Australia for a year on a working holiday visa after finishing her undergraduate degree.