A degree in the arts is more versatile than ever before. Graduates from VCUarts join a global network of creative talent that is the engine for today’s businesses and creative industries.
85% of alumni landed a job within 12 months of graduating.2016 Strategic National Arts Alumni Project survey
VCUarts alumni exemplify the range of exciting opportunities you can pursue with a degree in the arts. They are world-recognized scholars, artists, designers, performers and educators. They work in every creative industry and can be found in renowned galleries, advertising agencies and design firms, public schools, community arts organizations, international publications, and Johnson Space Center.
Read more about our alumni below to see where a VCUarts degree could take you.
“A lot of what I like to do is forward-thinking and paving my own route. That notion was solidified while I was at VCUarts. I was encouraged by my professors to get involved and do as many different things as possible. It was OK that I wanted to work on the fashion show, but that I also wanted to do photography, and I wanted to study abroad, and I wanted to minor in media studies.”
Sophia Li (BA ’13) is a New York-based multimedia journalist and video director who studied fashion merchandising at VCUarts. Her mission is to humanize a story, product, or character through immersive storytelling and conscious content focusing on issues such as fashion sustainability and global tech trends. She has created and directed conscious campaign videos for brands such as Adidas, Maybelline, and Theory. Li is the former Entertainment Media Editor at Vogue.com, where she helped create and launch VOGUE’s social and digital voice. Her reporting has appeared in CNN, VOGUE, and at the United Nations.
Art history alumna Amber Esseiva (BA ’12) is an assistant curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. Her first solo-curated show, “Great Force,” sought to understand the constant force of black-white racial constructs throughout the country.
“I was frustrated at how distant art history could feel from the real lived experience of artists. For me, curating, and particularly curating in proximity to an art school, was really exciting.”
John Sampson is an art director and illustrator based in New York City. A graphic design alumnus, Sampson has held positions at several design studios, including Pentagram, De-Yan, Timothy Goodman and Siegel+Gale.
Image: Daniel Diasgranados (BFA ’19)
Recent theatre graduate Robbie O’Brien (BA ’20) plans to move to Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he’ll be the entertainment operations manager for festivals and parades. In the fall, he plans to move to Orlando, Florida, to be the assistant stage manager for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studies, and then return to the road as the advance crew for the Russian National Ballet until May 2021.
Image: Destiny Martinez
After a photography internship with NASA, Allison Bills landed a position as a Digital Imaging Specialist and photographer at Johnson Space Center. Her work ranged from photo shoots of NASA crews at mission control, to digitizing NASA’s archival film. Now she’s a lead photographer at Space Dynamics Laboratory in Utah.
Craft/Material Studies alumnus Colin Knight (BFA ’20) has designed award-winning furniture. His most recent work reimagines British mid-century modern design, a project inspired by quilts his grandmother made during World War II. He received a prestigious Windgate Fellowship and plans to spend time in England building a library of textiles, woods, and war materials; visiting craft and furniture fairs in Paris; conducting research; and completing the body of work.
Valerie LaPointe (BFA ’03): An animator to watch
Valerie LaPointe (BFA ’03) graduated from VCUarts’ Communication Arts & Design program—a predecessor to the departments of Kinetic Imaging, Graphic Design and Communication Arts—and has been a full-time story artist at Pixar animation studios since 2007. She helped shape the stories for Brave, Inside Out, and The Good Dinosaur. The 2019 film Toy Story 4 marked her first role as a story supervisor. That same year, Variety highlighted LaPointe as one of “10 Animators to Watch.”
LaPointe told Variety about the idea for the film’s villain, Gabby Gabby: “I really wanted to have a girl baby doll character in the Toy Story universe [to have] more female toy characters in general.”
“For so long, brands have been about consumer acquisition,” says Jayanta Jenkins (BFA ’94). “The messaging hasn’t had much meaning, except ‘two for one’ or ‘this blade is the sharpest.’ When we can take brands like Procter and Gamble, and utilize their massive reach and tell a story of inclusion or unconscious bias or gender or sexuality, we’re going to reach millions of people.”
Jenkins, who majored in fashion design, is a co-founder of Saturday Morning, a creative collective that leverages the reach of global brands to shift perceptions on racial bias, injustice, immigration, education, and the environment. Jenkins was the first-ever Global Group Creative Director for Twitter, and has held positions with Samsung and HP, as well as ad agencies like Martin Agency, Wieden+Kennedy and TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Angelique Scott (BFA ’18), who studied Art Education and Craft/Material Studies, now teaches painting, drawing, sculpture and graphic design to Richmond high school students. Scott also teaches workshops in Northern Virginia and maintains a part-time studio practice. “Some people dream of meeting their favorite artists—I teach mine.”
Communication Arts alumnus Chris Kindred (BFA ’15) is an illustrator and writer in Brooklyn, New York, whose clients include The New Yorker, New York Times, Cartoon Network, Polygon and NPR. He is currently a graduate student in NYU’s Game Center. While a VCUarts student, Kindred was editor of The Commonwealth Times comics section, as well as the founding editor of the annual comics anthology Emanata. His work can be found at chriskindred.com.
Nathan Mills (BM ’11) is a classical guitar performance major who now runs a successful YouTube channel, “Beyond The Guitar,” featuring his unique blend of classical guitar and movie, television and video game soundtracks. “If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that I could build a career by combining my love for the guitar with my arguably less productive love for movies and video games, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Marley White (BFA ’20), who studied Craft/Material Studies, creates wearable work that uses the aesthetic and formal language of jewelry to capture social unease. Her work is also performative; the way her metal pieces hang from wearers’ hands and ears actively inhibits their ability to fully express themselves. White received a 2020 Windgate Fellowship from the Center for Craft in Asheville, North Carolina, which will allow her to pursue a six-month apprenticeship with three influential contemporary jewelers in Amsterdam, and study the archives of the Stedelijk Museum.
Robin Verrier (BA ’13), who studied fashion merchandising, is a prop stylist and photographer, and owner of Verry Robin and Co. Though based in Charlottesville, Virginia, she works with international artists and businesses. Her styled photography can be found in websites, catalogs, lookbooks, editorial and social media for publications like Architectural Digest and Elle and brands such as Le Creuset and Tory Burch.
Painting + Printmaking alumna Ashley Hawkins (BA ’07) is the co-founder and executive director of Studio Two Three, a nonprofit studio that provides thousands of artists with 24/7 studio access, robust educational programs, artist residencies and essential support of a creative community.
“Studio Two Three is my life’s greatest work. We started Studio Two Three in 2008—less than three months out of undergrad. The idea was just to create a place where we could continue making prints outside of VCUarts. We rented a small studio, Studio #23 (hence the name) at Plant Zero art center. We borrowed an etching press, tended bar to pay the rent, and put every spare moment, thought and dime into starting this little artist’s collective.”
Dance + Choreography alumna Christine Wyatt (BFA ’18) is a ballet and lyrical dance instructor at J’adore Dance Studio, and a company dancer at RVA Dance Collective. Wyatt’s work is informed by the research she conducted as an undergraduate, where she examined the capability of dance to heal racial divides in the U.S. African American dance traditions and community-building are important parts of her practice.
“By the time I graduated, [classmate] Jelani Taylor (BFA ’19) and I ended up co-creating two evening length performances,” Wyatt told Dancers of RVA in an interview, “and I completed a self-designed research project entitled ‘Decolonizing Dance,’ and participated in a social justice project called #donttouchmyhairRVA, all of them VCUarts grant-funded. It’s such an amazing feeling having an institution financially back your vision and interests.”
Image: Gianna Grace
John Calderon (BFA ’04), who majored in Photography + Film, was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Production Design for his art direction on the Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World. Calderon and his business partner Chris Fox founded I Want That Productions after running the hidden camera crew for the movie Bad Grandpa, part of the Jackass franchise. Jackass co-creator and executive director Jeff Tremaine called the pair one of the best in the business for hidden camera work. Calderon and Fox have since pitched a number of show ideas, and their company now rents out production supplies, art department kits, and a woodworking space to film and TV art departments.
Nickolai Walko (BFA ’14), who studied Sculpture + Extended Media, uses wood, paint, masking tape and an X-Acto blade to create high-contrast, intricate and stylized depictions of human and animal anatomy. His piece Steed won the Virginia’s Finest Award in 2018 at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Arts’ Boardwalk Art Show.
“I love doing human anatomy, because no matter what we look like on the outside, that’s what we all are underneath.”
Music alumnus Victor Haskins (BM ’13) is a composer, performer and teacher. He is currently a professor of jazz trumpet and the director of the jazz ensemble at the College of William and Mary, as well as the director of jazz outreach for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His recent work incorporates jazz with a variety of art forms—from dance and stage design to poetry—to create dynamic music experiences. His ongoing event series ImproviStory uses improvised performances to capture historical narratives and personal experiences.
“The biggest challenge [of teaching music] is just understanding, and figuring out a variety of ways to assume different perspectives. I’m always practicing, always improving, always looking for ways to become better at communicating. So as I’m teaching to people who maybe have no experience with improvisation, I’m thinking, ‘How do I get them to understand this idea in a way that is not academic?’ It’s just a matter of explaining these various ‘rules’ to people so they can understand them and can then be creative with it in their own way. Because once they internalize it, and have a way to really grasp onto it, then they can put their own personality into it.”
Image: Josh Marcus