Students seated on monument

To the VCUarts community,

Moving to Richmond just over a year ago was a huge step for me and my family. But seeing the diverse, engaged and supportive community at VCUarts affirmed that this leap was not just one of faith, but a confident step in a new direction. I knew I’d be joining a community of artists who deeply value collaboration, and who are passionate about the transformative power of the arts.

Your kind embrace helped us through this transition, and I’m excited for the opportunity to strengthen those relationships in my second year. This year, I’ve also had a chance to learn more about the history of VCUarts as we celebrate our 90th anniversary. Hearing stories of our founding, and the generations of artists who have passed through our campus has further reaffirmed the importance of a supportive community.

Our dynamic collaborations aren’t limited to our campus; they extend deep into the Richmond arts community. We’ve seen this for decades as our alumni graduate and become embedded in the city’s culture, opening galleries, curating exhibitions, showing their work and joining professional performing arts organizations. Our students are invested as well, as they intern with local organizations and partner with nonprofits to experience firsthand how the arts can inspire and change the lives of their fellow citizens.

Consider mOb—a collaboration between the VCUarts departments of graphic design, fashion design and interior design. Working with the Richmond nonprofit Storefront for Community Design, the two organizations pursue endeavors rooted in a shared belief: that good design makes for a healthier city where citizens are inspired and enabled to participate in their environment, their government and their culture. Together, mOb and Storefront have explored how design can destigmatize mental health and substance abuse treatment; interpret the slave experience on a 17th century plantation; solve traffic congestion; and encourage grassroots efforts for neighborhood improvements.

Most recently, mOb and Storefront’s national ideas competition, Monument Avenue: General Demotion/General Devotion, is challenging artists, planners, architects, designers, landscape architects and more to reimagine and reconsider the historic boulevard. More than 90 teams have registered, and the best ideas will be on display at the Valentine in February, stimulating new conversations about monuments and public spaces in our city.

I’m proud to be a part of this dynamic and engaged community, where we support one another as we together challenge the status quo—and I am excited to welcome a new voice to VCU later this year when Dominic Willson assumes the directorship of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU.

We also have an exciting slate of visiting artists sharing their wisdom and experience this year at VCUarts, including comics-industry giant Mike Mignola. The Department of Communication Arts will be hosting a conversation with Mignola, who is best known for creating the Hellboy series, on Oct. 29. If you’re in Richmond, I invite you to attend.

On that note, I’d like to remind everyone to have a fun and safe Halloween, and I look forward to the many opportunities to connect with our vibrant community in the coming months.


Shawn Brixey
Dean | School of the Arts
Special Assistant to the Provost for the School of the Arts in Qatar
Professor | School of the Arts
Affiliate Professor | College of Engineering


October 1, 2018