Elizabeth Hensley C.

BFA, 2008

My efforts have centered on organizing context-sensitive gatherings that elicit dialogue around certain moments of land use in Bajalta California. The happening itself + the links mapped during the occasion constitute one part of the work; another surfaces through the traces that found the production of media + presentation environments.

My pedagogical background, elaborated through efforts coordinating the production of works + projects to be analyzed via group discussion in a classroom setting, reverberates. That is, the production of forums for critical dialogue around a given theme or issue is a central part of my practice; likewise, it is foundational to my aims as an instructor.

Extending from a conviction in the value that critically informed civilian involvement in the planning and development of works and programs offers to public life, I work with agencies between Tijuana and San Diego to produce and promote community programming in the bi-national region.

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What have you been up to since graduating from VCU?

Since finishing at VCU, I have worked in several different communities, eventually landing in Tijuana-San Diego. The impulse to re-locate came with my participation (from 2009-2012) in the UCSD Visarts department, where I earned an MFA in relation to studies that unpack regional food webs and the myriad socio-ecological complexities that agricultural production across the Californias implies.
 I currently work with two separate initiatives: One seeks to foment ties between community organizations in the Zona-Metropolitano-Tijuana-Tecaté-Rosarito and San Diego County and also with UCSD researchers; the second studies mobility systems in the metropolitan region, toward promoting non-motorized mobility and intermodality as viable transportation alternatives.

What advice would you give a current VCU Sculpture student?

When I think back to my time as an undergraduate student at VCU, I can recall, with great affection, the sense of community I felt when among peers and professors of the department, which was fostered, in part, by the time we dedicated to working in the shared studio space. Generosity is important in a community of makers; don’t be afraid to share from your knowledge base and skillset with other people working in the studio; likewise, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance or to request a second opinion of peers, technicians or professors.

How did VCU prepare you for your current situation?

There is little that matches the experience of the group critique (a central component of the VCU Sculpture educational experience) to foment on-your-feet critical thinking skills and the ability to externalize sharp critical analysis through civil conversation. Balancing the utility of negotiation and diplomacy with an ability to articulate the complexity of a given issue (problematic aspects detailed, and emphasized where necessary) is an important substructure to work that involves interfacing with an array of social actors.

Why did you decide to study sculpture?

I began VCU’s Art Foundation Program with the idea to apply to the Communication Arts department, specifically, the department’s “Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration” track, attracted to what I perceived as an apparent interdisciplinary nature of that program. Once I’d delved a bit more into the culture of producing work in a studio setting, I noticed with increasing frequency the relevance of having a broad skillset to draw from, of having familiarity with a variety of tools (literal and conceptual) with which to address problems. In the meantime, I began to learn more about the culture of the two departments; and, in the end, I felt that my sensibilities were better aligned with the kind of work environment that characterized the school’s Department of Sculpture and Extended Media.