Each year VCUarts awards several Graduate Research Grants to support students’ creative practice, research and scholarly activities relevant to their academic programs and professional goals.

Students who have achieved candidacy in a VCUarts graduate program are eligible to apply for awards up to $3000.

Deadline to apply for Fall 2019 is Wednesday, November 20.

To apply, complete the on-line application form (below), which includes a prompt to upload a single pdf file that includes:

  • Your name in the header at the top of each page.
  • Project narrative, approximately 750 words: Describe the proposed project, including an explanation of your conceptual approach or research theory and methodology, as well as an account of how the proposed project advances your studio practice or research trajectory.Explain how your proposed work contributes to your field—keeping in mind that your proposal will be reviewed by the Graduate Studies Committee (consisting of the graduate program directors from all of our graduate programs). Delineate how the grant award will be used—expenses can include materials or supplies (disposal goods), equipment (re-usable goods), travel, and shipping. All payments to individuals must be processed by VCU; you will not be reimbursed for payments made to individuals. Grant funds cannot be used to purchase equipment or software that is already available to students in the department or school. Equipment purchased with grant funds will be property of VCUarts. Provide a rationale for the proposed timeline. Proposals with the greatest clarity tend to be most competitive.
  • Timeline of activities: List specific dates for activities described in the project narrative. Grant recipients must be enrolled during the Spring 2020 semester in order to remain eligible for funds. If your project involves a live human subject(s), you must submit your proposal for review to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to submitting your proposal to the Graduate Studies Committee. Please indicate when the approval process was or will be completed.
  • Budget: Provide a straightforward detailed list of how grant funds would be spent. Clearly indicate the total requested funds. There is no need to list expenses for which grant funds will not be used. Proposed travel expenditure that includes lodging and/or per diem must correspond to prescribed government rates. For information about travel, go to http://procurement.vcu.edu/i-want-to/travel/
  • List of professional activities and awards, up to two pages: e.g., exhibitions, performances, publications, conference presentations
  • Work samples: Studio and design students may include up to eight work samples. Images may be pasted into in the pdf; sound or moving image files (each of which is no longer than 2 minutes) may be provided via a link to Vimeo or sound cloud. Students submitting proposals to support written research may provide a three-page writing sample as well as images illustrating the subject of their research.
Review process and criteria

All applications are reviewed by a faculty member from each of the VCUarts graduate programs. Reviewers rank the applications based on the following:

    • clarity of the proposal narrative, timeline and budget;
    • account of how the proposed project advances the student’s studio practice or research trajectory;
    • significance of the proposed project to the student’s area study, as described in the project narrative;
    • quality of work samples.

Awards are competitive; students are encouraged to work with their advisors as they prepare their applications


The application period is now closed, please check this page for updates

VCUarts Graduate Research Grant Awards

2019-20 Awards

Laura Boban
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: For my 2020 MFA thesis exhibition, Attempting Stability, I will create an installation comprised of video and abstract sculptures to critically examine conformity and success. In the video I will work with my three sisters to build four-person cheerleading stunts, a process of tackling childhood activities many years later. Large-scale sculptures made of t-shirts, gym weights, and furniture pieces will occupy the gallery, implicating the body through material and object relationships.

Eric Anthony Berdis
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: My practice engages childhood idealism, mythology, and historic events, to subvert, ideas of place, actions, and imagery that are often considered neutral in a hetero-normative society. Through installation, performance, and objects, my work explores themes of shame, failure, and the AIDS epidemic. My thesis grant proposal seeks to contextualize my research for the 2 week exhibition at the Anderson Gallery during the Month of April.

Yutong Liu
Graphic Design
Proposal: The work we did as labor is the way it pushes us to become a cyborg. My aim is to create a participatory design room in the gallery. This project discusses communication and miscommunication during this cyber participatory performance. The participatory design is letting participants get involved in the whole work. The intervention from humans to machines lead us to become a cyborg in this working space. During this machine working, what the role of humans? What the role of the machines?

Aidan Quinlan
Graphic Design
Proposal: When I Leave I am Replaced by a Bench is an exploration of precarity: the loss of certainty and the loss of traditional structures and models of rest within the accelerating flow of information, the 24-hour work day, and the ever-smoother space of our persistently connected digital interfaces. The project simultaneously questions and makes an argument for frustrating, detouring, and slowing down.

Julia Mishler
Interior Design
Proposal: This grant proposal is to support my Interior Design MFA thesis studies. The proposed project is to visit Helsinki, Finland to study key interior architecture projects firsthand. Specific projects include Helsinki Central Library Oodi, Academic Bookstore Helsinki, Finlandia Hall, Vyborg Library, Harald Herlin Learning Centre, Amos Rex art museum, Loyly, Jamppi Chapel of Silence, and the National Library of Finland. Each of these projects is an important precedent site for my thesis project. My thesis is designing a space that combines a library and a movie theater into the historic Byrd Theatre in Richmond, Virginia.

Jared Duesterhaus
Kinetic Imaging
Proposal: Hold my Hand is a live multi-media performance and installation that uses gesture to examine identity and the performative aspect of self. Consisting of tightly scripted narrative vignettes, the performance is based around variations of interpersonal conversations between several characters. Repeated gestures ghost through the environment, connecting the scenes and characters. The performers’ actions are emphasized by careful use of animation and sound to create an immersive experience.

Seren Moran
Painting + Printmaking
Proposal: “Lest We Forget, Prey Begins With Play” is an immersive exhibition inclusive of animations, poetry, sound, paintings and installation. Each piece tells a specific story of sexual assault that focuses on the lasting devastation of these events. Through the use of satirical limericks and saturated color palettes, this work functions as a reflection of how we are taught to disguise sexual violence as harmless play.

John Chae
Painting + Printmaking
Proposal: My thesis project is an installation that maps the ways in which ideology determines reality. The installation is a spatial timeline, a composite of imaginaries, declarations, and remembrances associated with the reciprocating effects of evangelism, colonialism, and capitalism. The project takes the form of paintings, maps, text, photographs, pamphlets, a calendar, a board game, a script–assembled within and around a central infrastructure, a grid that proposes pathways and vantage points from one work to the next.

Luis Vasquez La Roche
Painting + Printmaking
Proposal: Greg Tate “says, “Black people live the estrangement that science fiction writers imagine.” I understand this to mean that brown and black folks were the first aliens by the way of the middle passage. As a point of departure from this notion, I have decided to create a space suit that would be an assemblage of found materials, fabricated parts and purchased products. Each one of these considered attachments will reference or point towards certain histories and economies.

GM Keaton
Painting + Printmaking
Proposal: For my thesis exhibition, I will create an installation that imagines queer embodiment as an ongoing practice of relational existence, material intimacy, and resistance towards a subject/object binary. Large scale fiber sculptures, experimental video, sound, and light works come together to create an immersive environment where queer relations blur the boundary between self and other, each recognizing the other as mutually constitutive.

Paul Finch
Painting + Printmaking
Proposal: “Mars Fashion Week 2020” usurps the performative structure of a runway show to explore issues of dandyism, frugality, and our relationship with the future. It features drag queens, children, and queer models stomping around a camp simulation of a Martian landscape in flamboyant bespoke costumes. The work critiques dominant rhetoric about progress by centering non-conformity, flamboyance, and hand-made fashion as cornerstones for a new aesthetic for queer futurism.

Hannah Altman
Photography + Film
Proposal: Jewish thought suggests that the memory of an action is as primary as the action itself. This is to say that when my hand is wounded, I remember other hands. When my mother grabbed my wrist too hard pulling me across the intersection, when my great-grandmother’s fingers went numb on the ship headed towards Cuba fleeing the Nazis, when Miriam’s palms poured water for the Hebrews throughout their biblical desert journey – this is how the Jew is able to trace ache. To encounter an image in this way is not only to ask what it feels like, but to ask: what does it remember like?

Mariana Parisca
Sculpture + Extended Media
Proposal: This body of work, is a personal and diasporic reconciliation with the value and the notion of a nation. It is informed by research on the causes of the crisis that has enveloped Venezuela, and on the power of global neoliberal economic speculation, and its relationship to land, borders, and natural resources. Using devalued Venezuelan currency, these ideas are weaved together in a phenomenological installation, in which sculptural works, video, and text are activated through performance.

Katelyn Turner
Sculpture + Extended Media
Proposal: Kate Turner’s exhibition is an autobiographical installation pulling from her experiences and memories growing up in the suburbs of Ohio as a transracially adopted child. Romantic notions of midwestern iconography mix with surreal shifts of perception, draw the viewers into a strange realm where their gaze implicates them into her narratives.

Ruben Rodriguez
Sculpture + Extended Media
Proposal: A Spaceship/Aztec Temple made from hypersensitive tentacles of nahuales. As a means to reimagine ancient Aztec artifacts and their use in ritual. Made with contemporary materials like my clothes and mariachi sombreros. I will be creating a decolonial futurism with the aid of magical realism and science fiction. A future where; hybridity, myth-making, and the fantastic inhabit the mundane along tangents of non-linear time.

Andrew Bryce
Proposal: I intend to use the Graduate Research Grant to supply funding to study with master Meisner Technique Teachers Larry Silverberg and Patricia Skarbinski, as well as with Elizabeth Terrel and Miller Voice Method teacher Tia James. This research investigates the integration between Meisner’s acting technique and Somatic Vocal work. This first-hand research into their methods will have direct impact on my intended Thesis project, which is to create a new method of vocal preparation for actors implementing the Meisner Technique. This research is vital for my intended presentation of my research and thesis at the 2020 Southeastern Theatre Conference.

2018-19 Awards

Samantha Encarnacion
Art History
Proposal: This grant will support travel to the Tate Modern in London to view their upcoming retrospective on Dorothea Tanning. With over 150 works on view, the exhibition offers a rare comprehensive look at this important artist’s long career. Viewing the exhibition will be invaluable for completing my dissertation on Tanning, in which I re-conceptualize her oeuvre as a thoroughgoing critique of the onto-epistemological assumptions upholding the fraught legacy of western humanism.

Marie Fornaro
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: From the medieval witch hunts to the present day, women who dare to speak have been ignored, silenced, or punished. The New Commons is a fiber-based sculptural installation that blurs the lines between human and landscape, critically examining the capitalist belief that certain people are considered natural resources, available to be consumed freely. Plumbing the confluence of quiltmaking and language, both coded and overt, this quilted installation gives voice to those who have been silenced.

Hannah Shaban
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: Arab Americanesque’ is an immersive installation and performance confronting cultural obfuscation in a postcolonial society. By layering the environment with traditional oriental flourishes and the contemporary perversion that is the arabesque tile commonly seen in Western decor, I illustrate how certain aspects of a culture are stifled by the lens of colonialism and imperialism. Through their discovery and destruction of the space, viewers are made complicit in the blatant appropriation of culture and the blurring effects it has on Arab identity.

Yixue Li
Graphic Design
Proposal: Neither and Both, is a project that reproduces the experience of miscommunication of the Chinese diaspora identity, in the context of global consumption and cultural exchanges. It also examines the consumption process as, according to Jean Baudrillard, “a communication system” and “the manipulation of objects as signs”. As part of research project, I aim to build a retail store for my thesis exhibition, which provides a space for (mis)communication, and a surface for cultural (mis)translation to take place.

Chino Amobi
Graphic Design
Proposal: This Exhibition will function as a collaborative editing room and theatrical set for the production of ACT 1 of STRIKE: A Living Film in which practitioners from fields both inside and outside of the VCU will participate in.

Ruiqi Zhang
Kinetic Imaging
Proposal: This research project seeks to explore the impact of current short-video social media software on Chinese social structure. And the use of social media as a way of creating new media art, engaging in the increasingly influential media class conflicts in China’s cyberspace. This media conflict involves a broad socialization and politicized race and class division.

Clare van Loenen
Proposal: To participate in a three-week artist residency at Elsewhere in Greensboro, North Carolina in February 2019. Elsewhere is the focus of one chapter of Clare’s doctoral dissertation, Social Sites: Artist Project Spaces 2001 – 2016. It is also the only artist project space critiqued that is ongoing and, as such, provides an intensive opportunity for direct participation in its practices as a living museum and artist residency.

Yu Su
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: My proposed exhibition will be the culmination of a year’s experiences and conversations with close friends that form an intersectional, challenging and safe community. It will consist of painting, writing and sound work that are generated from these experiences. The work explores the process of affirming myself as a foreign, non-white, non-straight male subject in the West in particular, as well as how the new generation of global subjects navigate spaces and boundaries.

Diane Antohe
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: This folio-book and installation is centered around storytelling: the weaving of information shared by generations of my family within the historical and pop-culture climates of Romania and the United States, such as new connections between my childhood sense of “in-betweenness” and the ‘80s soap opera Dallas. The book form serves as a sculptural object that assembles materials and allows viewer engagement.

Evie Metz
Photography and Film
Proposal: I create handcrafted stop-frame puppet animations that explore self-conscious emotions such as embarrassment, shame, and envy within unpredictable life scenarios. The stories depict human instinctive natural behavior. These are animations of inner life. This work attempts to resolve conflicting elements of the human psyche. In merging digital technology and meticulous handcraft, the animations are presented with corresponding animatronics that are an extension of the characters, props, and sets of the animation, in a physical manner.

David Riley
Photography and Film
Proposal: “Silver Sands” is a documentary film which follows the story of Marc Hampton, a gay, desert-dwelling Vietnam vet, former Playgirl model, and vintage car collector who lost two lovers to AIDS. The film functions as a series of meditations on aging, loss, spirituality and intergenerational relationships. Together with an accompanying installation recreating parts of Marc’s domestic space and photo archive, “Silver Sands” explores evolving ideas of memory, history, and representation.

Colin Klockner
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: “In defense of pure evil” is an installation that approaches questions surrounding objecthood, embodiment, and historical conflation of transfemininity with evil. A surrealistic, transparent room functions as a listening space for reproduced covers of Q Lazzarus’ 1988 single “Goodbye Horses.” Outside of this room, a collection of both original and manipulated fan-fictions inform a series of sculptural elements that reference the shape of the Brother 3-in-1 printer.

Raul De Lara
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: Raul De Lara will make palpable the feeling of deep instability undocumented households feel in this country by creating a body of sculptures for his thesis exhibition.

2017-18 Awards

Matthew Forster
Art History
Proposal: My M.A. Qualifying Paper explores early twentieth-century American Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. My analysis of his images calls attention to the homoerotic nature of his work. I situate Leyendecker within a larger early twentieth-century queer history, demonstrating the unstable boundaries between the realms of commercial and fine art in the process.

Sasha Baskin
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: This exhibition examines the glitches in reality through the mathematical materiality of traditional textile processes. Through collaboration with James Madison University’s TC2 computerized jacquard loom, in combination with natural dye processes studied at VCU, I examine the juxtaposition of analog and digital which defines a woven image. With weaving as my medium, I embed the history of programming and computer coding into every thread.

William Lenard
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: “A Familiar House” is an installation consisting of a concrete jail cell that addresses the American criminal justice system and the effects of solitary confinement, such as PTSD and post-prison readjustment. This work stems from my incarcerated brother’s longing to be home. I depict my brother’s prison in the American West and the landscapes of our home in New England to portray the desire for the familiar while confined in an isolated landscape.

Drew Sisk
Graphic Design
Proposal: In media res is an investigation of the hyperreality of politics and the media. Looking at issues of political theater and “fake news,” online bots will mine headlines from far reaches of the political landscape to continuously generate new, often absurd content. Holographic talking heads will join live multi-channel broadcasts with news anchor avatars giving uncanny visual form to the content from the bot. Content will be continuously changing and no surface will be fixed, pointing to a dystopian present-future in which information is hyper-present, generating and even consuming itself, with real political consequences.

Micah Weber
Kinetic Imaging
Proposal: “The woman who was backed into a corner and disappeared” is an assemblage of experimental animation, philosophical inquiry, and art-book. Situated within the genre of auto-fiction and documentary, this work is a material meditation on magic, witchcraft, potentiality, class relations, and politics of death.

Tracy Spencer Stonestreet
Proposal: I will conduct a nine-day research trip to New York to explore the ways in which art institutions archive, label, and display objects from performance art. I will visit the Whitney Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Ronald Feldman Gallery, spending time with their archives, exploring filing systems, and seeing specific performance-based objects in person. This trip provides necessary in-person research for my dissertation, in which I consider how the indexicality of performance-based objects affects issues of agency, identity, and representation.

Liang Luscombe
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: I propose to continue my research into the relationship between contemporary feminism and language, circling around the central research question: what does a feminist language sound like? I plan to present the culmination of this research within a video installation of three videos at the VCU Masters of Fine Arts Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

Michael Royce
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: A series of paintings will be produced that examine the representation and articulation of intimacy outside of heterosexuality, mediated through a wide variety of pre-existing visual material that pulls from historical painting, craft traditions, and cartooning. Themes of repression, desire, and control all commingle in attempt to reconcile notions of sexuality that exist outside of dominant cultural representation.

Brett Suemnicht
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: My thesis exhibition will present two socially engaged works, the GenderFail Archive Project and the GenderFail Awards Project. Both projects examine how printed matter, be it a publication or an award, can be displayed, archived, and presented with an emphasis on collaboration. The exhibition will include a reading room with various artist-made publications displayed on sculptural works made in collaboration with Richmond-based artists.

Johannes Barfield
Photography and Film
Proposal: “In The Bilge Again” is a multidimensional examination of the “black experience” in America. The installation will be composed of videos and site-specific sculptures, that share a nuanced and complicated view of blackness through the lens of a black man decoding personal history and American history simultaneously. Autonomy is the overarching theme throughout the work as it pertains to race, ethnicity, identity, urban and rural environments, and the relationship between generational trauma and nostalgia.

Evan Galbicka
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: A site-responsive, durational installation comprised of plaster and clay sculpture, a solar power and water vapor system, and a computer algorithm function together as an ecosystem in collaboration with land snails and vegetable sprouts. Movements of snails within this installation determine the daily arrangement of the project’s components, foregrounding non-human agency, interdependence, and a temporal frame that challenges human perception, as poetic forces that illuminate non-anthropocentric ways of being.

Jordan Kolesnik
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: A site-specific installation created over six months in the back rooms of the Anderson Building incorporating video and sculpture. A narrative video, split into several channels, depicts three people experimenting with empathic telepathy. The space is reimagined as a responsive body, sculptural interventions act as barriers, limitations, and filters, creating opportunities for intimacy and communication.

2016-17 Awards

J. Avery Collins
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: “The moon cuts like pie, but not cherry” is a durational performance depicting the interior of one ‘living’ entity- that invites visitors into five of its many symbiotic compartments occupied by seven keepers (performers) and three symphonic lungs (musicians). These performers are linked through laborious action devoted to the transformation of the whole. This sensorially immersive environment excretes our yearning for a speculative existence, one toiling to unearth and investigate what humanity could be through a consistent questioning of our current realities, our histories, and our definition(s) of ‘self.’

Cassandra Ellison
Graphic Design
Proposal: Working from the proposition that Design methods have therapeutic and destigmatizing value for those in recovery for mental health issues, intellectual disabilities, and substance use disorder, this thesis project sets out to explore the efficacy of those methods utilizing fabric printing workshops which will culminate in a fashion show in partnership with the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, and Storefront + mOb.

Alexis Holcombe
Interior Design
Proposal: A conceptual redesign of a building in Richmond for promoting increased health and well-being will be informed by travel to the Well Living Lab in Rochester, Minnesota, which conducts evidence-based research on the connection between interior environments and human health. The redesign is also inspired by the “Blue Zones,” which are five areas in the world where people naturally live longer.

Elizabeth Hunter
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: A series of sculptural medical instruments will be created and situated in an installation of a clinical and otherworldly room that interrogates the architecture of anesthesia as a psychological space, asking what it means to be an inactive or deactivated body.

Anthony Iacono
Sculpture and Extended Media
Proposal: “Darkroom / Dark Room” is a voyeuristic maze-like installation consisting of mirrors and flat collaged works. Visual effects in the objects and surreal installation insert the viewer into the images. Queer scenarios involving anonymous subjects surrounding themes of desire, control, and anxiety are depicted in the psychological collaged works.

Stephen Nunes
Craft/Material Studies
Proposal: The installation “DFF_Use” aims to compound idealized components of simulated spaces with carefully constructed material assemblages within a multi-sensory environment. The project will be an amalgam of objects, sounds, and animations that are direct extensions of my most recent work with sound diffusion and acoustic architecture.

Patrick Smith
Photography and Film
Proposal: This exhibition examines our mediated understanding of climate change through consumerism and technology and the way in which we can read images as material, spatial, and ideological models of the world. Materials often associated with hurricane-proofing like plywood, storm shutters, solar panels, sand bags, etc., are engaged and misused in order to highlight the power of banality and of the socialized acceptance of the fate of our environment.

Joana Stillwell
Kinetic Imaging
Proposal: “A Moment of Pause” is about creating a space of sustained attention. By combining the commonplace and banal (elements that root us in our material world) with video and text (extensions of self-consciousness), the researcher will create an immersive installation exploring ideas of a tangible consciousness as it relates to ritual, routine, objects of direct experience, and a nonlinear approach to time.

Ryan Syrell
Painting and Printmaking
Proposal: Informed by recent studies in haptics, architecture, and the body, a series of paintings will be created to articulate sensory spaces, in opposition to the mass de-materialization of experience brought about by the internet.

Saskia Turpijn
Art History
Proposal: The grant will be used to conduct archival research on eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century engravers in London. Studying the correspondence and biographical papers of British engravers is essential for my dissertation, which is focused on the working practice and professional lives of British engravers in the Georgian era (1714-1837).

Katya Yakubov
Photography and Film
Proposal: “The Watering Room” is a 25-minute narrative film that complicates the pagan Russian witch Baba Yaga with a contemporary feminist reading of the grotesque female body as a site of slipping boundaries and ambiguous gender. Questioning the role of motherhood as defining a woman’s sexual identity, the film is a carnivalesque celebration of the taboo and lewd, meant to open a space for psychological change and shifting norms of sexuality.

Weijian Zhou
Graphic Design
Proposal: This project will build an enclosed immersive space to provide playful views and emotional experiences of broken reality—contextualizing fragmented personal memories from digital space and the altered interactions between men and physical reality. The researcher is aiming to blur the perceptions inside and outside digital space, and investigate the evolving notions of masculinity and its relationship to social media.