Our Team

Sarah B. Cunningham, PhD
Executive Director
Tracy Leipold

Our Mission

The Arts Research Institute (ARI) frames artistic practice as research, encouraging intellectual inquiry in and through the creative fields. Specifically, we aim to:

Support faculty with research development, to refine original concepts, incorporate rigorous research design, identify fitting funding opportunities, and prepare compelling proposals to further their creative work and scholarship

Foster interdisciplinary collaboration, to explore new directions in creative practice and the unique contributions of art and design towards generating new knowledge in other fields, including health, education, and human and community development

Facilitate public dialogue by organizing and participating in local, national, and international discussions exploring the evolving role of artists and designers in society


Our Work

Technical Assistance

ARI offers a range of services to faculty, and when appropriate, individuals and entities beyond VCU. This includes but is not limited to the following:

Project design – assisting with basic planned activities to meet standards of excellence expected by a funding entity

Research design – assisting with research methodologies across media, as well as implementation, documentation and reporting

Partnership development – identifying, pursuing and engaging appropriate partners to support, implement or validate a project

Fiscal development – building complex project budgets and shepherding the internal review process for proposal submission

Dissemination and promotion – identifying appropriate venues and platforms for disseminating and promoting artists’ research and creative scholarship

Research consulting – conducting in-house, issues-based research to inform policy


In alignment with its aim to facilitate public dialogue, ARI organizes the following series of programs:

ARI Salons – a salon series exploring topics and creative strategies tied to investigations taking place at VCUarts. ARI Salons provide an informal setting for faculty to workshop ideas and facilitate discussions with interested researchers and practitioners, potentially growing collaborations across VCU and Greater Richmond.

ARI Forums – a speaker series, carried out in collaboration with an academic department or program, exploring a theme related to the role of artists and designers in society. ARI Forums invite at least one guest speaker a year to engage members of the VCU community and a broader public in rich, timely dialogue.

gallARI – a gallery of rotating works produced by faculty that engage with various media spanning the visual arts, performing arts, and design. Located in the former Depot Gallery, ARI utilizes existing exhibition space to present the depth and breadth of faculty research at VCUarts, supplemented by online digital media.

Living Lab – an open, street-level studio space activated by faculty who are experimenting, exploring, challenging, learning, and engaging in diverse and often interdisciplinary areas of arts research. The Living Lab is designed to highlight more nuanced understandings of research in the creative fields.


Our Partners