About Undergraduate Research Grants
In the 2023–2024 academic year, VCUarts will award grants to support creative undergraduate research and entrepreneurial projects.
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.
Funding: Receive up to $3,000 in grant funding to develop an interdisciplinary project.
Eligibility: VCUarts full-time undergraduate students graduating after December 2023. VCUarts students may submit a proposal to collaborate on a project with a student from any other major attending VCU full-time.
Information Session: Students are encouraged but not required to attend an information session on September 26, 2023 from 12-1pm in person, Pollak Building (325 N. Harrison St.), room 201, Dean’s Office conference room.
Apply by: Thursday, November 2, 2023 (11:59 p.m.)
Notification of awards: Notifications will be sent during the week of December 4.
Apply for Undergraduate Research Grants
Lindsay Bowman, Art Education
Mikayla Heightshoe, English/Psychology
Faculty Mentor, Caitlin Black, Art Education
To create a children’s book that merges principles of child psychology and creative learning in order to effectively communicate to children the importance of inclusion and disability awareness.
Visual History Archive
Kiara Brown, Kinetic Imaging
Achilles Braziel, Kinetic Imaging
Eunice Kim, Kinetic Imaging
Patrick Griffin, Kinetic Imaging
Ryan Alvarado, Kinetic Imaging
Sarah Cornell, Kinetic Imaging
Tony Dhillon, Kinetic Imaging
Uday Illa, Kinetic Imaging
Zachary Kennedy, Kinetic Imaging & Political Science
Faculty Mentor: Semi Ryu, Ph.D., Kinetic Imaging
To create a visual history archive of art and animation through a multidisciplinary media to enforce the preservation of historical recounts of Richmond.
The Black Male Experience
Chadwick Davilsaint, Theatre
Amarachi Onyejekwe, Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science
Faculty Mentor: Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D., Theatre
This research project’s goals are to gather knowledge, insight, and understanding from a range of public figures on the VCU campus and in the Richmond neighborhood, to advance the overall wellness of the Black male experience, and to place special emphasis on the development of Black men’s morals, values, belief system, and way of life.
Slipping Into Yesterday
Paris Dinh, Graphic Design
Hailey Walcott, Photography and Film
Faculty Mentor: Ayham Ghraowi, Graphic Design
As an interdisciplinary collaboration between a photographer and a graphic designer, Slipping into Yesterday is a research project that will result in a photo-based installation that addresses and resolves the loss of identity in the wake of our families’ divorces.
The Way They See Me
Tajhmir Gough (Cinema & Sociology)
Nico Yanakiev (Cinema & Business)
Mary Plaku (Psychology)
Faculty Mentor, Danny Caporaletti, Cinema
Film: Two Black teenagers face two sides of racism from their teacher and must learn to work together to find a solution to their isolation.
Biocentrism: An Interactive Art Installation
Teairrah Green, Photo/Film
Lareina Allred, Graphic Design
Chynia Harris, Dance + Choreography
Faculty Mentor: Sasha Waters Freyer, Photography + Film
This project is an interactive installation that combines video, audio, and performance art to answer the question: How does biocentrism unify our thinking and existence?
Everything Under the Sun: Short Film
Joshua Arroyo Cinema/Spanish
Hannah Cantrell, Cinema
Elise Sunderland Cantrell, Undeclared
Celia Donnelly, Graphic Design
Kendall Felix, Theatre
Gigi Jacobsen, Cinema
Gillian Moses Cinema/English
Lilly Parker, Photography + Film
Brianna Singleton Cinema/Media Studies
Holly Smith, Cinema/English
Noah Vickers, English
Maddy Wade, Cinema
Faculty Mentor: Shawn Brixey, Kinetic Imaging
Everything Under the Sun is an experimental short film that studies the hesitancy and turmoil often faced when coming to terms with one’s sexuality. Our story follows Olivia, a college sophomore raised in a highly conservative and religious household, as she works through the complicated mental, emotional, and spiritual implications of her newly discovered attraction to girls.
Social Psychology of Childbirth
Anna Kovina, Sculpture + Extended Media
KáLyn Banks Coghill, Media, Art + Text (Ph.D.)
Faculty Mentors: Corin Hewitt, Sculpture + Extended Media; Jesse Burrowes, Sculpture + Extended Media; Jack Wax,Craft + Material Studies
To develop a body work, utilizing bronze and glass, that challenges the established social psychology of childbirth as reflected in its historic lack of artistic representation.
Aztec Feather Mosaics
Megan Meyer, Graphic Design/Art History
Kaijun Xie, Painting + Printmaking/Biology
To explore and recreate the processes of constructing Aztec feather mosaics following Spanish contact with Latin America in the 16th century.
Zine: Art Scenes and Subcultures of Saigon
Cecilia H. Nguyen, Photography + Film
Colin V. Nguyen, Interdisciplinary Studies
Yejin Lee, Graphic Design
Faculty Mentor: Jonathan Molina Garcia
Our project will explore the different art scenes and subcultures of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam. In our research, we will craft an intriguing and involved narrative surrounding this region of the country through a collection of interviews and portraits that will be compiled into a zine.
Impermanence: Multimedia Publication
Barrett Reynolds, Photography + Film
Fiona McMichael, Graphic Design/Painting + Printmaking
Celia Donnelly, Graphic Design
Faculty Mentor: Nicole Killian, Graphic Design
To create a multimedia publication including illustration, poetry, photography, and collage exploring the materiality of the body. The students’ work will encapsulate ideas surrounding the impermanence of the human body in relation to time, as well as express the physiological
comparisons between the human form and one’s environment.
Material Sourcing and Reuse: Local Urban Wood for Student Use
Kristen Wheatley, Craft and Material Studies
Faculty Mentor: Keenan Rowe, Craft and Material Studies
By establishing relationships with the City of Richmond, the James River Parks System, and the Virginia Department of Forestry, each organization will donate trees that have been removed or fallen on their land to the VCU Craft and Material Studies Department Wood Area. Using the provided funds, researchers will organize milling demonstrations with hired portable millworkers to mill the trees and educate students about lumber processing. We will then transport the wood to be dried in purchased kiln space. Following completion, the lumber will be transported to the Wood Area for use by students for Furniture Design Projects. The result will be a more financially accessible program and a more environmentally responsible source of wood.
This group of Theatre Performance majors plans to produce 6 shows of the comedic farce Noises Off. They want to truly research how comedy is used in everyday life. Therefore they came up with fundraising plans that will investigate comedic coping while also raising money for the show, such as pieing, a stand-up comedy night, a scavenger hunt and an awkward family photo contest.
Caroline Mae Woodson, double major in Theatre Performance and Psychology, Creative Writing minor
By researching and learning more about Buddhism and Vietnamese culture, this team will create a short film entitled Love, Mai, complete with a screenplay and all elements of pre and post production in filmmaking. This project will help VCU students of differing backgrounds and interests collaborate on ideas of motherhood, sisterhood, and grief. In creating and distributing this film, they hope it will challenge and affect people’s views of Asian-Americans. A main goal of this project is to give more humanity to Asian lives and to depict them as full, fleshed out characters. They want to push forward a new narrative of the diasporic experience and show Asian lives through a different lens, a main character lens.
Danielle Phan, Cinema
Aerin Fortes, English and Cinema
Ashley-Nicole Meadows, Cinema
Michael Nolan, Cinema
Camden Walent, Cinema
Shawn Bond, Cinema
Cheryl Anne Fries, Cinema
Alexiana James, Dance and Cinema
Hannah Cantrell, Cinema
Stephen Ingram, Cinema
Amani Hagmagid, Cinema
Terre Nguyen, Cinema
Jordyn Roberts, Mass Communications
Colton Johnson, Cinema
Alex Bagoly, Cinema
Faculty Mentor- J. M. Tyree
One Wing is a short film revolving around feelings of grief, isolation, and new beginnings. It focuses on the specific period of grief that occurs before the loved one being mourned has passed away. The intended outcome of the project is to exhibit a strong father-daughter relationship in film and to display the pain and resilience required in the face of terminal illness and new beginnings.
Gillian L Moses, Cinema
Rachel Christina, Cinema and Mass Communication
Brianna Singleton, Cinema
Carlos Chavez, Cinema
Madeline Wade, Cinema
Noah Vickers, English
Stuart Smith, Cinema
Faculty Mentor- Danny Caporaletti
“Chữ và Lời” (Letter and Word)
Society is created and bonded through the way Vietnamese address each other using “tiếng Việt.” Drilling into this aspect, as an interdisciplinary collective of Vietnamese artists, this team is fascinated to research the nuanced and complicated connection that “tiếng Việt” brought up among Vietnamese-Americans on America’s soil. Together as inheritors of such a rich language, they aspire to preserve the Vietnamese’s handwritten script, its traditional folklore and to create a connection to our culture and its people through the project by creating a kinetic sculpture that involves Vietnamese text, wood, sedge mats and traditional bamboo weaving technique.
Hien Nguyen, Sculpture, Art History minor and Craft minor
Quynh Nguyen, Graphic Design
Faculty Mentor- Anthony Nguyen
Eden, North Carolina
In 1967, the three small towns of Draper, Spray, and Leaksville, N.C, were merged into one and optimistically named Eden. The town is representative of the American Dream- an “Eden” belonging to hard-working Americans. However, in the wake of corporate restructuring, it has become much less of a paradise than the name suggests. With this grant the team will be able to create a comprehensive collection of portraits of the town and its residents compiled into a book, of which a copy will be donated to the Eden Public Library. They also plan to give back to the Eden community by hosting free photography workshops for children to expand and inspire their creativity.
Kayleigh MacDonald, Photography + Film
Elise Wojtowicz: Photography + Film and Art Education
Faculty Mentor- Mark Boulos
Stress and Strain
Stress and strain as well as tension and compression are terms with a specific engineering meaning that are also used in social context. These concepts unite on a physical and cellular level as well as on a larger social and psychological level. Making physical and biological ideas more approachable in an artistic format is important to this team. The overall outcome of this piece is to create a visual and sound piece that explores the patterns and relationships that form in non-Newtonian fluids. They hope to offer more sensory experiences than in a typical gallery setting, with interactive visual, tactile, and auditory pieces and works that connect people.
Niki Jiang, Sculpture and Craft minor
AV, Biomedical Engineering major and Math minor, who also studies Product
Innovation with the da Vinci center
Sustainable Production Methods
As a duo, this team is interested in creating sustainable products through alternative means of production. Previously, they conducted research and collected information on how to create paper using recycled materials and inks using plants, fruits, and vegetables as a way to make art sustainably. They aim to create various products that include but are not limited to: posters/flyers, books, zines, stationery, and sculptures using their made materials. Their intended outcome is an exhibition showing a collection of varying production methods and ideas that culminate into an array of sustainable products and environmentally conscious practices. This team plans to make an additional manifesto of their findings that will be created and published for the exhibition that people can take with them, made through their sustainable production methods.
Shayla Pham, Graphic Design and Painting & Printmaking minor
Wes Ramsey, Graphic Design
Faculty Mentor- Brooke Inman
Physarum will be an artist book focused on slime mold, fractals, and community care. They plan to draw on disabled and queer practices of found family and mutual aid to create a manifesto of interdependence as survival strategy. The artist book will also serve as a toolkit, offering cards to guide and inspire discussions around reciprocity and care in relationships and instructions to use them, encouraging the reader to create their own community ecosystem.
Syd Lewin, Sculpture and Extended Media
Faculty Mentor- Emily Sara
For Mindful Musicians: A 6-Week Guide to Overcoming Negative Self-talk & Performance Anxiety
After their research, this team discerned that the majority of music students are struggling with negative self-talk and performance anxiety. How is this affected when students are given tools to develop a harmonious mind-body connection that sticks with them both in the practice room, and on the stage? The planned outcome is to publish two workbooks for young musicians, one for young adults and one for children. The workbooks will focus on the power of the mind, and how our thoughts influence our performance anxiety and self-talk. With this award, they plan to give those in our music community the tools that they need to understand and combat performance anxiety, freeing them from the suffering of an unsound mind. The team will then send workbooks to and present at five colleges and five public schools.
Amora Faith Mikell, Music
Julissa Martinez, Music Education
Faculty Mentor- Dr. Tiffany Valvo, Music
The Lee X
Through the production of a digitally shot documentary film, this team plans to reconstruct the lifespan of the Lee X, an adult cinema in operation from 1965 to 1993 that is now the Grace Street Theatre. This project aims to briefly revive and celebrate the significance of a bygone form of public eroticism, and explore where and how similar phenomena arise in Richmond today. The film will examine the theater’s link to Richmond’s queer history and sexual economy, contextualizing the rise and fall of the Lee X within the history of the sexual revolution, civil rights, gay liberation, the AIDS epidemic, the culture wars and contemporary Neo-conservatism.
Andre Medina, Sculpture
Mish Bendersky, Painting & Printmaking
Alyx Ward, Communication Arts
Faculty Mentor- Dr. Liz Canfield, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies
Ronnie Makes a Rocket
This team plans to create a short film with a unique visual style that can provide working experience to Cinema and associated arts students. By relying heavily on practical special effects such as miniature scale models, rear screen projections, matte paintings, and composited traditional animation, the film will have its own unique look based on choices made by the art department. With the goal of screening this film at festivals and publishing it online, Ronnie Makes a Rocket will be a film about navigating a hostile adult world with the power of make-believe: a positive, hopeful message for a troubled generation in a troubled time.
Brandon Langley, Cinema
Carleigh Ross, Communication Arts
Faculty Mentor- Yossera Bouchtia, Cinema
El Eterno Femenino
The proposed project is to create a staged, bilingual production of El Eterno Femenino, Farsa (The Eternal Feminine, Farce) by Mexican playwright Rosario Castellanos, while also researching the background of the various societal and historical forces at play within this work. The intended outcome is a full scale theatrical production, performed in a combination of English and Spanish that explores the themes of feminism, both through our modern lens, as well as through the lens of Mexican history and culture that is presented in the play. The production will be filmed and then distributed to audiences virtually.
Casey Clauberg, Theatre and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
Luci Harris – International Studies and Foreign Language, minors in Statistics and Political Science
Kylee Márquez-Downie – Theatre
Faculty Mentor- Bonnie Brady, Theatre
VCUarts students will create an original short film titled “Busker Jones,” about a deaf, homeless pantomime with a kind heart and passion for silent film who learns that even he deserves love. The creation of this short film will provide VCUarts students with the opportunity to improve their filmmaking skills and other creative goals. Because “Busker Jones” is about an individual who is both deaf and homeless, the team believes that it is their responsibility to increase their understanding of these communities in order to portray them appropriately in the film. So, the students will reach out to deaf organizations and homeless shelters around Richmond during pre-production to learn and volunteer their time to give back to their community. They intend to donate a portion of any profit made from the festival circuit to local non-profit organizations that help these communities.
Colton Johnson, Cinema
Jesse Dominguez, Theatre
Darren Johnson, Theatre
Autumn Brain, Cinema
Allie Ochsner, Cinema
Sydney Robinson, Fashion Merchandising
Joseph Puccio, Cinema
Ronaldo Antezana, Cinema
Rachel Benfield, Cinema
Kenneth (Foster) Mellott, Cinema
Aerin Fortes, Cinema
Paul Nolan, Cinema
Phillip Martter, Cinema
Lindsey Paulette, Cinema
Jake Bruno, Cinema
Jaden Lips, Undeclared
Faculty Mentors- Yossera Bouchtia, Cinema
Daniel Caporaletti, Cinema
Continuing their research on using theatrical performance to integrate sociological research into an accessible format for audiences, this team will develop a multidisciplinary approach to the creative process. The group’s main goals are to follow a three-sectioned process modeled off the standard sections of sociological journal articles, produce and stage a socially, scientifically, and artistically relevant show using a mixed-methods and cross-disciplinary approach, and synthesize this process into a sociological journal article, measuring the impact the production had on the actors and audience members.
Award- $ 3,000
Emily Tomasik, Theatre and Sociology
Olivia Knight, Theatre and English
Faculty Mentor- Dr. Jesse Goldstein, Sociology
Games In Light: Public Play
This duo will conduct an investigation into public light and projection as a means of play. The focus of this research will be to produce simple, interactive, and socially distant games that can be played by interacting with the projections. These will also be accessible for users to play online if they wish, allowing for further interactivity and participation. The purpose of this project is to offer a space for safe play within reach of both the public and private. The project will be modular and will move across different areas of Virginia, expanding the audience safely, while exploring the application of this game across divergent areas.
Lawson Cumming, Kinetic Imaging
Abigail Bannon, Sculpture
Interested in subverting forced perceptions and guidelines of gender and breaking from its societal norms, this duo plans to create a space reflective of an obsessive psyche. They will create an installation activated by video and performance art. Documented performances of the two interacting with the sculpture and the projections will be displayed on a monitor opposite of the installation. The video documentation will be turned into three music videos to contextualize the space for the audience, while also archiving the project to exhibit online.
Nadine Jambois, Sculpture
Adam Dabbs, Kinetic Imaging
Faculty Mentor- Massa Lemu, Sculpture
Performance Check is a serial livestream performance art piece with an emphasis on the use of cross-disciplinary multimedia. The group will utilize the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, as a framework to test the limits of entertainment and human connection in a digital environment. The team intends to release an episodic video product in two forms: one live-streamed and one with heavy post-production editing. Using a maximalist approach, they will release a series of narrative performances with elements of theatrical design, improv, music, digital media, and illustration, envisioning a holistic, immersive, and experimental experience for the viewer.
Samuel Wagner, Kinetic Imaging
Tomya Pryor, Theatre
Noah Reynolds, Communication Arts
Sarah St. John, Theatre
John-Henry Holden, Electrical Engineering
Alex Trouslot, Music Education
Noah Brown, Communication Arts
Faculty Mentor-Christopher Raintree, Theatre
A team of VCUarts Cinema students will create a 12 minute short film. The film deals with themes of healing and frustration as two young black women reckon with their harmful, yet beautiful environment. It expresses the perspective of many southerners, growing up around statues, plantations, and fields, and the histories that these hold.
Syd Scott, Cinema
Christian Heiche, Cinema
Aerin Fortes, Cinema
Leilani Curran, Cinema
Gigi Jacobsen, Cinema
Joshua Arroyo, Cinema
Bryce Pride, Cinema
Amaya Fuentes, Cinema
Faculty Mentor- Yossera Bouchtia, Cinema
Using traditional printmaking and textile techniques in unconventional ways, this duo will re-depict classic myths with contemporary relevance. The finished work will consist of three scrolls, telling the stories of Narcissus, Icarus, and Persephone. In re-telling these stories through the language of abstracted imagery and symbolism, they hope to create a visual embodiment of persistence. The team will use printmaking, sculpture and craft to combine techniques and materials which are not typically brought together or have not been brought together in this particular way.
Alexandra Mihalski, Craft, minor in Painting + Printmaking
Peter Skudlarek, Sculpture
Faculty Mentor- Hillary Fayle, Craft
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This project will solve acoustic problems in the first-floor classroom space at the Depot.
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.
“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.
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.