Undergraduate Research and Innovation Grants

In the 2019–20 academic year, VCUarts will award a total of $40,000 in grants to support undergraduate research, innovation, and entrepreneurship projects.

motion capture research

Use your talents, skills and passions in unexpected places.

Leverage your curiosity and creativity to spark exciting investigations and take risks on bold new ventures.

Enhance your coursework through thought-provoking discussions and hands-on experience with a team of peers and faculty mentors.

The opportunities:

Undergraduate Research Grants
  • Receive up to $5,000 in grant funding to develop an interdisciplinary project.
  • Average project award is $1,850.
Arts and Health Research and Innovation Grants
  • Receive up to $5,000 in grant funding to develop a project, product and/or service that integrates the arts and health disciplines and contributes to the enhancement of healthcare delivery.
The James R. Gregory Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Receive up to $5,000 to develop a product and/or service that has strong potential to become a sustainable business model.

To apply:

Download and fill out the PDF application and the Budget Template. Submit your completed application, along with all supporting materials, to artsgrants@vcu.edu by Friday, November 8, 2019.

For questions about these opportunities, please email artsgrants@vcu.edu.

Faculty mentors for awarded proposals will receive a $500 research stipend.

About Undergraduate Research and Innovation Grants

Undergraduate Research Grants
These grants encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and promote faculty-student mentorship. They are open to applicants seeking funding to complete research or creative work that is interdisciplinary, involves student collaboration and draws on the expertise of a faculty mentor.

Arts and Health Research and Innovation Grants
These grants encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration between the arts and health disciplines on projects, products, and/or services that focus on one or more of the following areas of healthcare: medical education, care provider quality, patient experience, society health and wellness. In addition to grant funding, awardees are provided with workspace in the Center for Creative Economy and have access to a network of faculty and industry mentors in addition to those in your proposal.

James R. Gregory Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Projects with an entrepreneurial focus and have a strong potential to become a sustainable business model are eligible for the James R. Gregory Prize for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition to seed funding, awardees are provided with workspace in the Center for Creative Economy and have access to a network of faculty and industry mentors in addition to those in your proposal.


Past Recipients

View full, detailed list (.PDF)


Performativity vs. Performance: Understanding the Difference in Contemporary Performance Art
The team is researching the inaccessibility of the language surrounding critique and discussion of performance art. The project will culminate with a curated exhibition that conveys the findings of the team’s research and will make available a risograph-printed booklet for free to attendees of the exhibition. The booklet is intended to make this type of contemporary art more accessible and educate audiences about its history.

Award: $650

Stories You Never Told Me
This is a multidisciplinary exhibition that is a continuation of a two-year ongoing body of work that Brienna has been working on for her senior thesis titled “Stories You Never Told Me.” The exhibition will draw from family archive images to create new, untold memories through the combination of text, photography and screen printing. Photographs will be submerged in blackberry preserves, then taken out, creating a layer of crystals on the image after drying. This accumulation of crystals and the residual fruit pulp is a metaphor for the cumulative process of memory. The exhibition will also use AI to produce computer-generated stories based off of a photograph that has been scanned and fed into a machine-learning model.

Award: $747

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot
Using the contemporary drama, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, as their source material, Drewe will explore how modern society views organized religion and how that view is changed with the casting of diverse actors playing symbolic biblical roles. With the support of VCUarts and the research grant program, Drewe will be able to explore themes, including how to increase diverse representation in theatre, in the setting of a full scale professional theatrical production with a general audience.

Award: $4,000

What Lies in Your Reflection
This will be a publication that explores the severity of lying, its gravity and consequence, and examine the desensitization and normalization of this compulsive behavior in society. This will be produced through numerous in-person interviews, which will generate a significant amount of the publication’s content. This limited-edition publication will display people’s lies adjacent to their underlying truths. It will include both interpersonal and intrapersonal lies, further exploring the psychological, physiological, and moral aspects and implications of lying. This publication will inform readers about their subconscious habits, while simultaneously succoring these individuals to better understand people around them.

Award: $4,000

Three Kilometers East
Film seniors Noah Carpenter, Alli Wilkins, and Victoria Lowry will travel to Northern Sweden to film a 15-20 minute short documentary about one of the largest urban transformations of our time, the relocation of the Arctic city of Kiruna due to land deformation from iron ore extraction on the city’s western border. The team will investigate the “city on the move,” speak with the parties involved, and document the process.

Award: $1,920

Contemporary Asian Ceremonial Vessels
This is will be an interdisciplinary project that explores ideas of Asian representation, dislocation, and racial identity formation. The team will explore traditional Chinese bronze-age piece molding as well as contemporary casting practices to create two vessels. The first, a duplicate of an existing ceremonial vessel from the VMFA collection, and the second, an original collaborative design. The collective of young Asian artists aims to create a connection to their cultural heritage through material, labor and the re-performance of traditional skills.

Award: $2,600

Flight School
Flight School is an animated film about a young demon who wants to apply for admittance into a prestigious flight academy. However, the demon doesn’t have wings so they must figure out how to construct their own prosthetics in order to attend. The film will tell a story of persistence despite disability or social shortfall.

Award: $600

It Came from the Sea
The goal for this project is to create a four to six-minute animated short film that will focus on two LGBT characters, in a setting that melds Scottish folklore with modern fantasy. This film is meant to be entrancing for a diverse audience and show representation for same-sex attraction in a genre where such topics are sparse.

Award: $1,934

Depot Acoustics
This project will solve acoustic problems in the first-floor classroom space at the Depot.

Award: $1,710

The Beast in the Cave
The team will produce a student-led short film, shot digitally, in a Virginian cave. The script is an adapted and modernized version of a short story by H.P. Lovecraft, titled The Beast in the Cave. The team aims to gain experience on how to create an independent film.

Award: $4,600

“L’homme avec Deux Chiens”
In this 10-minute short narrative drama, “L’homme avec Deux Chiens” (The Man with Two Dogs), Claude, a 61-year-old retired fisherman with three older children has been recently widowed. Except for his two French bulldogs, Ernest and Otto, Claude now lives alone in a modest New England home. This story follows Claude as he grapples with feelings of grief and loneliness surrounded by his wife Emily’s belongings and memory.

Award: $1,525

James R. Gregory Prize for Creative Entrepreneurship

Accessible “Pop-up” Shop and Reading Room
Responding to the lack of an accessible and permanent space to display and sell student work, the team will develop a highly curated “pop-up” shop and reading room. The shop will feature student zines, posters, art objects, apparel, totes, and other items with potential commercial value. Furnished, merchandised, and run by students, participants will gain real-world skills at the intersection of fine art and retail.

Award: $3,740


Contemporary Art Practices Class at Open High School

The team plans to teach a weekly arts class focused on fiber and sculpture techniques—specifically the crossover between traditional craftsmanship and contemporary making—at Open High School in the Oregon Hill neighborhood of Richmond.

Award: $717

Other Publishing

The team plans to start a publishing company, “Other Publishing,” as a pan-Asian queer publishing group focusing on creating a professional, international, intersectional, elevated design spaces for queer and transgender people of color.

Award: $2,600

22 Percent: A Disintegrating Data Visualization

The land known as “Historic Palestine,” which remains under Palestinian control today, is commonly referred to as approximately “22 percent.” This project will explore the dissolution of Palestinian land since the founding of Israel through a performance combining dance, theater, animation and music.

Award: $1,550

Material Library

The team will develop a permanent library and corresponding online archive of various wood, fiber, and ceramic material and technical samples as a resource for students and faculty in the VCUarts Fine Arts Building (FAB).

Award: $2,000

Familial Movers / Foreign Stories

Combining research in Dance + Choreography, Photography + Film, and Empathy + Embodiment within Virtual Reality, the team proposes creating an immersive virtual reality narrative experience that allows the participant/viewer to embody one of six performers, physically following their journey as well as hearing the experience(s) that inspired their performed trajectory.

Award: $1,300

Here Lies Beatrice

The team’s mission is to shoot a short narrative on 16mm film—a highly stylized, alternative form to the more widely-used 35mm format. This project will expose team members to a crew size and budget that closely reflects the resources indie filmmakers have in the industry today.

Award: $4,875


She is an experimental, short film about a young woman whose dreams reflect her struggle to categorize her sexuality, spirituality and mental health. She will premiere at Grace Street Theater in May 2019.

Award: $775

Time Machine

This project will be a large-scale installation and mixed media exhibition that will allow patrons to experience the effects of altered perceptions of time. The video installation will act as the actual “time machine” by using a combination of audio and visuals that play with time perception.

Award: $1,625

TYPE 4 Inc.

TYPE 4 will be a print and digital format magazine about fashion and lifestyle. It will be designed for artists, creatives, influencers, entrepreneurs—anyone under that umbrella who is also a dark-skinned person of color.

Award: $2,000

James R. Gregory Prize for Creative Entrepreneurship

Programming for the Creative Autistic Individual

The team aims to develop a program for use by K-12 educators, for the purpose of helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to acquire various artistic skills and techniques. Such skills will be applicable across various artistic genres and skill levels.

Award: $2,000

VR Bullying Intervention

The team seeks to develop a third iteration of VR Intervention Content for students within the VCU community. Using virtual reality simulation, the team’s mission is to reduce the impact of bullying in school environments while encouraging empathetic bonds via the improvement of students’ safe bully intervention skills.

Award: $3,000


Tareena Rising


Through video and animation, the team will create a short narrative neo-Western film inside a painted, wallpapered, sculptural TV studio set. The film will respond to collective research into the myth of the nomadic cowboy by subverting the West with gendered interiority.

Award: $1,349

Building a Rotational Caster


The team will construct a variable-speed rotational caster to create and exhibit a collaborative body of work centered around hollow-casted plastic, rubber, and glass pieces. The machine and the team’s findings will be available for Sculpture and Crafts students in the future as a supplement to flexible mold-making, foundry and kiln-forming glass curricula.

Award: $2,661

Virginia State Park Printmaking


The goal of this project will be to showcase the beauty of Virginia’s State Parks while exploring two traditional printing techniques. The project will create a series of posters that help illustrate what the parks have to offer, as a way of bringing awareness to the conservation efforts that have gone into preserving these pockets of Virginia.

Award: $1,529

48 Hour Film Fest at VCU


The 48-Hour Film Fest at VCU is a fast-paced, engaging creative quest that will occur
over one weekend in February 2018. Over the course 48 hours, 10 teams will work to write, shoot, and edit short films in advance of a public screening of all films at Grace Street Theatre.

Award: $850



Homecoming is an evening length dance performance that will showcase several artistic voices responding to experiences of leaving and returning home, returning to self—contending with one’s identity and voice in the face of oppression, and the understanding of motherhood through storytelling and movement abstraction.

Award: $3,000

The Hush Behind the Lips


The project is a short film inspired by a true story of sexual abuse that happened to the filmmaker of the piece during his childhood. The film explores the effects of sexual abuse on both men and women in developing countries such as modern Iran. The film is intended to raise awareness and develop a sense of empathy through sharing a personal story based on a personal trauma.

Award: $ 2,785

The Historical Richmond Coloring Book


The team will create a coloring book based on the diverse history of Richmond. The goal of this project is to increase the knowledge of diversity and bring light to underrepresented communities in Richmond.

Award: $2,500



The team will host a series of four fiber workshops for LGBTQ teenagers in the Richmond area and teach wet felting, crochet, weaving, and sewing through the lens of understanding identity by making art.

Award: $3,000


Coyle, Cummings, & Lowe
This group will study an abandoned particle accelerator and present our findings in a multimedia installation that will engage the viewer in a conversation of scientific advancement, personal loss, and national unmet potential. Award: $2,535.54

Fundamental Solitude
This group will create an installation that explores the phenomena of jail construction. Award: $2,435

This endeavor will challenge and develop the way we work as dance artists by collaborating with students in different disciplines to support the process of producing an evening length dance performance. Award: $2,730

Capturing the Quadruped in Motion Capture Systems
This group plans to build upon the motion capture resources in the Depot by adding the capabilities for quadruped motion capture. Award: $915

Forgotten News, Forgotten Names
This team proposes a series of events to follow the initial public screening of “Hell You Talmbout,” co-directed by Denzel Boyd, including a screen printing session and a social dance workshop–engaging the community with the themes of the film. Award: $2,702

Vmodern Furniture Design
This team seeks to design a suite of handmade, non-traditional stools that provoke playfulness, imagination, and positive social interaction. Award: $1,645

The Fire Fawn
An innovative use of CGI will be employed to present the story of The Fire Fawn, which will screen at the end of the spring semester, 2017. Award: $1,850

Edmund the Snail – Stop Motion Animated Short Film
This team’s goal is to produce a stop motion short film titled Edmund the Snail, in which a little girl steps on a snail and is haunted by its ghost. Award: $1,500

Lumarium is an interactive sensory environment combining new media and tactility in a non-traditional exhibition experience. Award: $2,443

A Sustainable Digital Art Show
This group will address the problem of E-waste through an exemplary curated show of digital art that examines the implications of E-waste’s dispersion. Award: $1,900

The Unghosting of Black America: An Exploration of the Black Experience and Racial Relations through Visual Poetic Drama
Through the collaborative development of Visual Poetic Drama in a nontraditional theatre space, this project will investigate the portrayal of the black experience in a variety of forms (theatre, literature, and visual art). Award: $3,000

Shifting Focus on Identity, Community & Inclusivity “By what means do you understand yourself in the world?”
This group intends to film interviews in Richmond, Baltimore, New Haven and New York City to be digitally uploaded and accessed through a public website domain. Award: $530

2015 – 2016

The Drag Lab
The Drag Lab is a collaborative project with an initial focus on androgyny, fashion, identity, and cooperative art-making, the project seeks to communicate developments in gender performance through the lens of visual art. Award: $2,679

Frame Your Future
Partnering with Art180, the team will teach middle school students crafting techniques that will be applied to decorate a frame symbolizing their future. Award: $1,614

GeOh (mobile app)
The GeOh project will develop and release a social networking mobile application built on mapping technology, GPS and upvote/downvote systems to crowd source and show users the most relevant events in their location. Award: $1,822

Re-examining the Piano Action
This project will try to understand a sound phenomenon between skilled and novice piano players by using Fourier analysis to identify nuances in the sound produced by a variety of playing techniques. Award: $2,000

Coding Literacy in the Arts
The intent of this project is to form a community around programming in the arts through an interdisciplinary arts workshop with the necessary tools to build the systems that will bring algorithmic drawing into the physical world. Award: $2,138

Human vs. Nature Microscopic Exploration
This team of scientific illustration students will use a digital dissecting microscope with a camera to examine relationships between specimens, both natural and artificial, gathered from the VCU Monroe Park campus. Award: $2,550

Adorning the Censored Body
The team will create adornments for various women’s nipples and organize a performance exhibition of the work, inspired by the wearable art of Lauren Kalman. Award: $1,700

A Girl and Her Alpaca: An Animated Short Film
An interdisciplinary team is creating an animated short about a girl and her alpaca, revolving around the kindness of strangers, the sharing of traditions and the magic encountered through animation. Award: $1,760

Marriage of Metals
This team intends to facilitate a conversation about the mediums of printmaking and metalsmithing by breaking traditional barriers and experimenting with the application and integration of their respective techniques such as etching, chasing, and relief. Award: $1,700

Stand Up/Break Down
This team creates an original web series about a young woman in a spiraling quarter life crisis who decides to reinvent herself as a stand up comedian. The problem: no one thinks she’s funny. Award: $2,760

This team will research the harmful effects of fast fashion as it relates to sustainability, both on the fashion industry and the environment. Award: $1,645

2014 – 2015

Ropewalkers Richmond
This team, involving fine arts and engineering students, will be engaging the community through a series of performances using a portable rope-making mechanism modeled after 17th century Ropewalks which are long, narrow paths where ropes are manufactured. Award:

The Urban Forest
Attempting to solve the problem of trees in cities, with roots that break sidewalks and cause property damage by falling limbs and branches during a storm, this project is inspired by Natalie Jeremijenko’s 1999 work “Tree Logic.” Award: $3,337

Testing Woodwinds
This project combines the disciplines of music and psychology by studying mindfulness, an enhanced awareness to a present experience that has been found to increase information retention. Award: $3,500

This team will address the problem by handcrafting a board with less impact on the environment while maintaining the quality of mass produced boards. Award: $3,500

Postmodernism for Kids for Adults
A transdisciplinary art book will be produced that makes the abstract concepts of postmodern/contemporary art relatable and engaging to a wide audience. Award: $1,500

This team will send a werkblad (a fillable form) and handmade object (that resemble office supplies suggesting graphing, recording, measuring, or making a space) to participating studios. Award: $2,530

Interactive Children’s Concept Book
This team will develop a children’s concept book that incorporates technology to enhance a beginning reader’s learning experience. Award: $1,070

Architecture — Fashion Design
In an attempt to further understand the elements and fundamentals of architecture when applied to fashion design, a student from Interior Design will help a student from Fashion Design understand the core fundamentals such as proportion, scale, rhythm, circulation, and the process behind concept models and sketches. Award: $2,180

Satirical performance of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
This team will produce and perform a satirized version of popular musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, using comedy to mock and put a modern perspective on the gender insensitivities in the play as a way to explore societal norms at the beginning of the 20th century. Award: $2,750

Small Living Space

The shell of a short bus will serve as a social laboratory for creative and sustainable housing. Award: $3,000

2013 – 2014

Afghanistan’s Rubab – The Lion of Instruments

This project is intended to preserve and expose Afghan Classical Music by creating a smartphone application of Afghanistan’s national instrument, the Rubab. Team: Sulaiman Popal, Music, Matthew Hill, Computer Science. Award: $2,500

Richmond Auf Deutsch

Through both visual and historical research, and will reveal the Germanic roots of Richmond to the broader community. Team: Inga Schunn, Photography & Film, Bethany Gingrich, Craft/Material Studies with a minor in Art History. Award: $4,500

musicspace.edu: Education re-form through space and creativity

This project will study the effects of the current educational environments on the creative individual. Team: Chanel Hurt, Music, Anthony Martin, Interior Design, Christina Merritt, Psychology. Award: $5,000

Richmond’s Arts & Culture District: Documentary & Community Forums

Students will Investigate successful examples of cities that have transformed their artistic communities. Team: Lauren Cronan, Photography & Film, Gabby Namm, Film, David Reisinger, Film, Kim McNamee, Film, JiYoon Cha, Graphic Design, Beverly Ware, Mass Communications, Rebecca Begans, Anthropology, Charles Wilson, Urban Planning, Natalie Moles, Urban Planning. Award: $5,000

Science of Filmmaking

This project will explore the organic nature of photochemical film and the various aesthetic qualities achieved through different processes of filmmaking. Team: Cody Huff, Film, Alexander Kreher, Film, Aaron Wilson, Chemistry and Biology, Christopher Lewis, Painting and Printmaking, Samantha Correa-, Art Education and Photography. Award: $5,000

Kids Curate

Students from Art Education, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Advertising and Marketing work together with middle schools in the Richmond community to teach what it means to have a visual arts related career. Team: Shannon Brady, Art Education, Jane Taylor, Creative Advertising, Ally Palmer, Creative Advertising, Leah Schmidt, Graphic Design. Award: $3,800