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
Andrea Alvarez, Ph.D. Student, Curatorial Track
Research Interests: Modern and Contemporary Art
Education: B.A., William & Mary
M.A., Virginia Commonwealth University
Andrea has recently served as a Curatorial Fellow at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. She is also a PhD candidate with a focus on modern and contemporary art. In her dissertation, she examines the relationship between the artwork and pedagogy of Josef Albers, a twentieth-century German-born American artist and teacher. Her area of specialization is twentieth-century painting, with a special interest in theories of color, modernism, and the relationship between art history and adjacent humanities disciplines including philosophy. In her role as Curatorial Fellow at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, she has curated The Swindle: Art Between Seeing and Believing and was the co-organizer of We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85, a traveling exhibition curated by the Brooklyn Museum. She is also the primary contributing author to the museum’s forthcoming collection handbook and assists with various additional writing and research projects in support of the curatorial department. Among many awards and grants, Andrea was the recipient of a five-year doctoral fellowship awarded by the Southern Regional Education Board from 2012-2017.
Alyrian Applin, M.A. Student, Historical Studies Track
Research Interests: Race in 17th-19th Century Latin American Art
Education: B.A., San Francisco State University
Alyrian is a first-year MA student on the Historical Studies track and a graduate teaching assistant. Her research centers on the art of the African Diaspora in Latin America and the resulting creation of a new cultural identity. She received a BA in Art History from San Francisco State University in 2019. She hopes to continue her academic journey through a PhD.
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.
Naomi Edmondson, M.A. Student, Historical Studies Track
Research Interests: Early 20th Century European & American Visual Culture
Education: B.A., College of Charleston
Naomi is a second year MA student on the Historical Studies track, the President of VCU’s Art History Graduate Student Association, and a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Her research interests include early twentieth-century European and American art and culture, and the re-contextualization of women artists. This December, she conducted archival research on Jacqueline Marval in Paris and Grenoble, France, funded by the Fredrika & Paul Jacobs Merit Scholarship. In May of 2019, Naomi presented her paper “Navigating Gendered Notions of the Early Avant-Garde: Re-contextualizing the Public and Private Self Representations of Suzanne Valadon, Émilie Charmy, and Jacqueline Marval” at University of California Riverside’s Graduate Student Conference. Naomi has interned in the Registration Department at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts consulting a lead curator, has interned in the Education Department at the Gibbes Museum of Art, and has worked as the Gallery Manager of a fine art gallery.
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.
Hannah Kiefer, M.A., Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Race in 20th-Century American Art
Education: B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Hannah is a second-year MA student on the Historical Studies track and a graduate teaching assistant. Her research centers on contemporary African art and on works and institutions that address colonial legacies. She received a BA in Art History from UNC Chapel Hill in 2014 and went on to positions in education at The Charlotte Museum of History and The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and in development at The Arts and Science Council, all in Charlotte, North Carolina. Other experiences after completing her undergraduate program include interning with the North Carolina Museum of Art and volunteer-teaching at Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. This past summer, she interned at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and this fall will be presenting at Digital Art History – Methods, Practices, Epistemologies II in Zagreb, Croatia.
Sarah E. Kleinman, Ph.D. Candidate, Museum Studies Track
Faculty Advisor: Peggy Lindauer
Research Interests: Modern and Contemporary Art
Education: B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder;
M.A., Virginia Commonwealth University
Sarah E. Kleinman is a Ph.D. candidate and adjunct professor specializing in Modern and Contemporary Art and Museum Studies. As a Fulbright Fellow to Trinidad and Tobago, Sarah is conducting research for her dissertation, “The Curatorial Practice and Exhibitions of Kynaston McShine.”
Sarah holds a B.A. in Political Science, Art History, and Studio Art from the University of Colorado at Boulder (2010) and a M.A. in Art History from VCU (2016). Her 2018–19 doctoral research is supported by the William J. Fulbright Program of the United States Department of State and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Graduate Fellowship for Art History.
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.
Veronica Parker, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: 20th & 21st Century Art with a Focus on the Comic Arts
Education: B.A., Hollins University
Veronica is a first-year MA student on the Museum Studies track. She received her BA from Hollins University in 2017, where she double majored in Art History and Business. During her undergraduate studies, Veronica interned with the Taubman Museum of Art, The Phillips Collection, The National Gallery of Art, and The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She has worked at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture as well as the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, and is currently employed as the Graduate Student Assistant to the VCU James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives. Her research interests include twentieth and twenty-first century art, with a particular focus on the comic arts.
Damon Reed, M.A. Student, Historical Studies Track
Research Interests: Feminist and Queer Discourses in 20th-Century European and Latin-American Art
Education: B.A., Randolph-Macon College
Damon is a first-year M.A. student on the Historical Studies Track and a Graduate Teaching Assistant. His research examines the often-problematic representation of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality as it relates to European and Latin-American modernism. In 2019, he received a B.A. in Spanish as well as Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a minor in Art History from Randolph-Macon College.
Kate Sunderlin, Ph.D. Candidate
Research Interests: 19th Century America
Education: M.A., University of Oklahoma and The University of Notre Dame
Kate is a PhD candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University and currently writing her dissertation. Her project focuses on the use of plaster in nineteenth-century America in three contexts – the artist’s studio, the art academy, and the public museum – examined through specific case studies of artists and institutions within Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Before coming to Virginia Commonwealth University, Kate worked as the Associate Curator for Ruthmere, a historic home in Elkhart, IN. She earned her Master’s Degrees from the University of Oklahoma and The University of Notre Dame in Museum Studies and Art History, respectively. In addition to her academic career, Kate also serves as the Office Manager and Tour Director at the B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry in Ruther Glen, VA, which she and her husband own and operate.
Charlotte Torrence, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Museum Participation and Contemporary Art
Education: B.A., St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Charlotte is a first-year MA student on the Museum Studies track. Her research interests include adult participation within the museum, the intersection of art and biology, and contemporary art. 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 museum preservation of ships and education in Historic St. Mary’s City. Charlotte completed an internship in administration and education at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond during her undergraduate studies and was an intern for the Early Childhood Education department of the VMFA this past summer. Charlotte is also an artist and enjoys working with several media including illustration, quilting, and analog photography. 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.