Photo + Film MFA selected for VCU Alumni’s 10 under 10 Award


Article by Kristen Caldwell

Johannes Barfield and the other alumni honorees will be honored in a virtual ceremony Oct. 15.

VCU Alumni’s 10 Under 10 awards program recognizes the noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who earned their first VCU degree (undergraduate, graduate or professional) within the past 10 years. 

Johannes Barfield creates attention-getting multimedia work. His installations — comprising photography, video, sculpture and sound — embody the Black American experience and how institutions and systems of power and influence are connected to the amplification and nullification of Blackness. He explores how race, class and societal influences create and maintain violence, and while his work can be seen as controversial, it’s captured critical acclaim.

At the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, Barfield took home a $10,000 best in show award for his work included in the 2020 “Coined in the South” exhibition. His multimedia pieces “In The Bilge Again” and “The Green House on Cornell Blvd.” shared the floor with work by 44 of his peers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. He has exhibited his work throughout the U.S. and won numerous fellowships, residencies and awards in the short two years since his graduation from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts.

On Oct. 15, Barfield will be one of 11 people honored by the VCU Office of Alumni Relations in a virtual ceremony as part of its 10 Under 10 awards. The program celebrates noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who earned their first VCU degree within the past 10 years. This is the most-diverse 10 Under 10 class ever, honoring two veterans, five entrepreneurs (including two business partners sharing an award), alumni of nine colleges and schools from six graduation years, and seven honorees who are from minority populations.

Barfield, who grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, earned his B.F.A. at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro before enrolling as a graduate student at VCU, where he found the space to experiment with different media.

“I’ve always been interested in film and video work, and then I also was thinking about sculpture,” he said. “VCU was a good place as a nexus for me to be able to connect all those different things that I was interested in to see if it had potential to become part of my practice.”

That practice continues to get noticed. He was invited in August to join the Merriweather District Artist-in-Residence Program, which brings together artists to work, live and create in downtown Columbia, Maryland. Provided with housing and supported with a $12,000 stipend, the six-week residency allows Barfield the freedom to take risks and pursue new projects, which continue to create conversations.

“I don’t know if my [work] has touched individuals outside of my personal community, but I would hope so,” he said.

Barfield received his MFA from the Photography and Film Department. He is the second alum of our department to receive this award. Mark Sandquist (B.F.A.’13/A) won the 10 Under 10 award in 2015.