VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2019 Program Session
June 3 — July 24, 2019



VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2019 Program Session
June 3 — July 24, 2019



film projected onto a wall, in front of the screen there's a silhouette of a female running in place

Program Description

The Summer Studio Program at Virginia Commonwealth University is a supportive and rigorous residency program with an established track record of inspiring and developing artists within a hothouse environment. Based on our successful MFA program, this 7-week intensive program combines theory and practice through: seminars, studio visits, artist lectures, critiques, professional development and intensive studio time.

For nearly a decade, this groundbreaking program has attracted artists globally to help transform and hone their work and ideas. Participants come together for uninterrupted time to work in generous studios and engage in ongoing dialogue with internationally recognized artists, critics and curators. Hands-on commitment to the advancement of the participants by those leading the program is remarkable: it is what sets this opportunity apart.

This two-month residency is ideal for artists developing a portfolio for application to graduate school, as well as those interested in uninterrupted studio immersion with charged feedback inside a stimulating and supportive atmosphere.

What Alumni Have to say

Many of the program’s alumni have gone on to some of the most prestigious graduate programs and residencies in the country. Past program alumni have noted:

“The impact such a short period of time has had on my practice, as well as my social and intellectual life is something I could not have foreseen. I'm sure it will continue to shape my life for years to come.”
“I'm so glad SSP encouraged us to create our own support systems rather than relying on institutions. SSP confronted me with ideas and realities that have made me more confident artist with smarter convictions.”
“SSP will completely shatter your idea of art-making and then rebuild a completely new, more developed, socially and politically responsible practice to launch you far into the future.”
“The feedback I got in this program was the most respectful I feel that I've ever gotten because it didn't sugarcoat, protect, or simply give participation points: my work was taken seriously and held to a standard I hadn't yet been held to in undergrad. It was also expected that I be able to filter through the opinions and take what feedback would push my work the most, a necessary ability moving forward in my career. I learned so much from the many trustworthy voices I encountered at VCU SSP– from both teachers and peers– about my work, my studio practice, and my career as an artist. I come away from SSP with a better understanding of my own work, of contemporary art as a whole, and with a strong network of close friends I found in the other driven and talented artists I met here.”
“SSP can be (and should be) challenging but worthy of participation. Expect to be right, wrong and confused but try to trust the pedagogy and keep an open mind about everything you experience while there. It will make sense perhaps not immediately, but later as a library of pertinent resources.”


2019 Core Faculty

Ryan Lucero
Ryan Lucero is a New York based artist and musician. He earned his BFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design and his MFA in painting from the Bard Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts (2002, 2017). He has exhibited at Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY; Falcon’s Nest, Los Angeles, CA; Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery, New York, NY; Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY; Reynolds Gallery, Richmond, VA. Lucero has also performed at MOMA PS1, Long Island City, NY and The Kitchen, New York, NY. He was the 2018 Fountainhead Fellow at VCU in the Painting and Printmaking Department, and Co-Director and Core Faculty at the Summer Studio Program at VCU.
Sara Stern
Sara Stern is an interdisciplinary artist from New York City. Working across video installation, sculpture, performance, and photography, her projects investigate the seams between public and private spaces, digital and physical things, people and buildings, users and systems. Stern received an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Harvard University, and has exhibited and screened her work in the US, Austria, Germany, and Singapore, at venues including SculptureCenter, NY; Anthology Film Archives, NY; the Museum of the Moving Image, NY; The Jewish Museum, NY; MuseumsQuartier, Vienna; and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Cambridge, MA. She received a 2018 Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant in New York and was the 2017-18 Fountainhead Fellow in the Department of Sculpture + Extended Media at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she continues to teach as a Co-Director and Core Faculty member of the VCUarts Summer Studio Program. In 2018-2019, Stern was a Visual Arts Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.

2019 Visiting Faculty

Cara Benedetto
Cara Benedetto currently lives and works in Richmond, VA. In 2009 she received a MFA from Columbia University. Benedetto’s work has been exhibited at the ICA Philadelphia; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; The Jewish Museum; MOCA Cleveland; Night Gallery; Simone Subal Gallery; Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart; Metro Pictures; and Gavin Brown Enterprise.
Caitlin Cherry
Caitlin Cherry received her MFA from Columbia University in 2012 and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010, and is currently Assistant Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Providence College Galleries, Providence, RI (2018); Anderson Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA (2018); University Museum of Contemporary Art at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA (2017); and at The Brooklyn Museum as part of the Raw/Cooked series curated by Eugenie Tsai (2013). Group exhibitions include A Wild Ass Beyond: ApocalypseRN (2018) at Performance Space, New York; Punch (2018) curated by Nina Chanel Abney at Jeffrey Deitch, New York; Touchstone (2018) at American Medium, New York; The Sun is Gone but We Have the Light (2018) at Unclebrother/Gavin Brown's Enterprise, Hancock, NY; Soul Recordings at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; Object[ed]: Shaping Sculpture in Contemporary Art (2016) at UMOCA, Salt Lake City, UT; Banksy's Dismaland Bemusement Park (2015) in Somerset, UK; This is What Sculpture Looks Like (2014) at Postmasters Gallery, New York; and Fore (2012) at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. Cherry is a recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Fellowship Residency (2016) and Leonore Annenberg Fellowship (2015), among other awards and honors.
Lily Cox-Richard
Lily Cox-Richard’s sculpture engages familiar forms and materials that have become unmoored from their original contexts and roles. She mines this distance by digging into their cultural and materials histories and forging new paths between them. Cox-Richard joined the faculty in 2017 as an Assistant Professor in Sculpture + Extended Media and area head of Space Research in the Art Foundation Program. She has been awarded an Artadia grant, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship in the University of Michigan’s Society of Fellows, and residencies at the Core Program, Millay Colony, RAIR Philadelphia, and the MacDowell Colony. Recent solo exhibitions include Yvonne (Guatemala City), Artpace (San Antonio, TX), Diverseworks (Houston), Hirschl & Adler Modern (New York), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), and the Hudson River Museum (New York).
Michael Jevon Demps
Born in 1976 in Detroit, MI, Michael Jevon Demps is a multidisciplinary artist whose work questions his/our bodies in relationship to power and oppressive social structures while creating conditions, in space and time, that critically engage with communities as audience and collaborator. He aims to compose works that invoke seeking and sharing experiential knowledge in order to envision and empower new strategies for navigating a constantly shifting social, political, intimate, and spiritual world.
Mary Eisendrath
Mary Eisendrath has made a career translating her own experience as an artist and an art student into facilitating that experience for upcoming generations of sculpture students. She considers her role to be that of an observer, a guide, and a fierce protector of spaces in which students can experiment, fail, and grow into their most actualized selves. While keeping the dust off others' work, she maintains her own ongoing and undocumented practice of serving the periphery and infiltrating learning institutions with radical love.
Amber J. Esseiva
Amber Esseiva is the Assistant Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. At the ICA Esseiva co-curated Declaration (2018), the ICA's inaugural exhibition where she led the commissions with Autumn Knight & Nonstikelelo Mutiti and Tavares Strachan; and Hedges, Edges Dirt (2018), featuring work by Abbas Akhavan, Jonathas de Andrade, David Hartt, Julianne Swartz, and Pascale Marthine Tayou. Esseiva also curated a solo exhibition by Martine Syms, Shame Space (2019) and will be the curator of the forthcoming exhibition Great Force (2019) a group exhibition that will explore how contemporary artists contend with persistent black-white racial constructs in the U.S. She holds a BA in Art History (2009) from VCUarts and an MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard).
Abigail Lucien
Abigail Lucien (b. 1992, Dallas, TX) is an interdisciplinary artist raised in Florida and Cap-Haitian, Haiti. They hold a BFA from Florida State University and an MFA in Printmaking from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Lucien’s work foregrounds their dual Haitian-American nationality by looking at ways cultural identities and inherited colonial structures transmit to the body and psyche. Their work has exhibited at museums and institutions such as MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, New York, Atlanta Contemporary in Atlanta, GA., and The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, PA. Lucien is currently based in Richmond, VA where they teach in the Sculpture + Extended Media department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Quilian Riano
Quilian Riano is an architectural and urban designer working out of Brooklyn, New York. Currently, Quilian is the founder and principal of DSGN AGNC, and teaches design at Parsons The New School of Design and the Pratt Institute. In practice and academia, Quilian works to create forensic research models alongside local stakeholders and trans­disciplinary teams, that can be used to propose a variety of spatial designs, targeted policies and actions that seek to increase local agency. Quilian has received the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise as well as awards and residencies from Harvard University, the Boston Society of Architects, the Queens Museum, etc. Quilian’s work has been featured at the Venice Biennale, Harvard University, the World Urban Forum, Columbia University, New York’s Center for Architecture, The Van Alen Institute, Parsons The New School for Design, among others.
Noah Simblist
Noah Simblist works as a curator, writer, and artist with a focus on art and politics, specifically the ways in which contemporary artists address history. He has contributed to Art in America, Modern Painters, Terremoto and other publications. He is editing a book, to be published by University of Chicago Press, about Tania Bruguera’s The Francis Effect, a project co-produced by the Guggenheim Museum, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and SMU. Curatorial projects include Emergency Measures at the Power Station in Dallas, Queer State(s) at the Visual Arts Center in Austin, and False Flags with Pelican Bomb in New Orleans. In 2016, he was the co-curator and co-producer for New Cities Future Ruins, a convening that invited artists, designers and thinkers to re-imagine and engage the extreme urbanism of America’s Western Sun Belt. His most recent project is Commonwealth, a multi-year project exploring the notion of the commons at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in partnership with the Philadelphia Contemporary and Beta Local. He is also Chair of Painting + Printmaking and Associate Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Alina Tenser
Alina Tenser's practice spans sculpture, video, and performance. Moving between these modes of working she is scratching at the same itch- to understand physical form as a transformative and manifold thing. In her work, Tenser makes and activates objects to show the movement, function, and affordance that characterize the objects.
Tenser received her BFA from School of Visual Arts and her MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the recipient of several distinguished awards including Daedalus Foundation Fellowship, Emerging Artist Fellowship and the Emergency Grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Tenser has held solo exhibitions at CRUSH Curatorial, New York, NY; 17Essex, New York, NY; Konstepidemin, Gothenburg, SE; Soloway Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; AIR, New York, NY; Nurture Art, Brooklyn, NY; and Pioneer Works, Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been exhibited at venues including MoMa, New York, NY, The Kitchen, New York, NY; Susan Inglett Gallery, New York, NY; The Suburban, Chicago, IL; and Laurel Gitlen Gallery, NewYork, NY; Kate Werble, New York, NY; Gallery Diet, Miami, FL;. Tenser recently completed the Queens Museum Studio Program residency.

Past Faculty and Visitors


Artists with undergraduate degrees who want to develop a body of work to serve as a portfolio for application to excellent graduate programs.

Artists with undergraduate degrees who are interested in further developing studio work and critical thinking in a creative professional environment.

Artists, perhaps farther along in their careers, who wish to participate in a critical dialogue to push their work to the next level.

Please note
The Summer Studio Program is progressive; students using traditional media as well as those who work in electronic media, performance, installation, conceptual and experimental hybrid forms are invited to apply.

group of students in a classroom during lecture, instructor showing abstract art on the large TV screen

Cultural Equity

The Summer Studio Program is committed to the principle of cultural equity and empowering a just, inclusive, and equitable community. We believe that cultural equity embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, religion, age, or disability—are given equal opportunities to participate in SSP and the wider VCUarts community as prospective and current students, alumni, faculty, or staff.


Each week of the program includes group critiques, individual studio visits and a rigorous seminar: a focal point for group discussion of contemporary ideas, theory and issues based on readings and events. All of this is in addition to plenty of studio time.

  • Group Critiques
  • Individual Studio Visits
  • Seminar/Theory
  • Workshop professional practices (including preparing for graduate school, artist statement).

Also mixed in the calendar are numerous visiting artist lectures and studio visits, museum and gallery field trips. The last week includes exit reviews by SSP@VCU faculty and a culminating on-campus exhibition of work produced during the program.

two female students working in a studio


Participants have 24-hour access to a 114,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility housed at the VCUarts Fine Arts Building near downtown Richmond, Virginia. Participants have the use of painting studios, woodshop, metal studio, mold making studio, computer lab and video editing facilities as well as University Library privileges and Wi-Fi access. Technical assistance is provided in the sculpture shops and computer lab.

Please note the foundry and print making studio are not running over the summer.

Click here to view Painting Facilities
Click here to view Sculpture Facilities

male student working in a studio


  • Work full time in their VCU studios for the duration of the program.
  • Participate in all seminars, critiques, reviews and events.
  • Participate in the exit exhibition (including planning, installation, lighting, etc.)
  • Produce photographic documentation of work done during the summer program.

a student talks about his art in front of a podium


Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is a diverse cultural city, surrounded by historic neighborhoods, parks and the James River — home to one of the largest inner city park systems in the country. The city consistently ranks among "Best Places to Live and Work in America." Richmond is ideally located within easy reach of Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City.

Near the center of downtown is Virginia Commonwealth University, a tier one public research university with over 31,000 students and 222 degree and certificate programs spread throughout its 13 schools and colleges. VCUarts, with over 3100 students is one is the largest schools in the University and is ranked as the #1 public university for art and design in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Students can find nearby, off-campus housing during the program. Students are responsible for arranging their living situation. Sublets range in price and availability, for a general overview of prices see Craigslist Richmond. You should plan to spend between $500 and $800 for a bedroom in a shared apartment or in a private one.

Program Fee

Fee: $4,950

A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to students whose work is of exceptional quality. All students will be considered for these scholarships during the application process.


Email your application to in one folder labeled Firstname_Lastname_SSP . In the folder put only two PDFs:
  • PDF 1: Ten images of recent work with title, year, medium and dimensions listed under each image, videos can be sent to via google drive.
  • PDF 2: One-page artist’s statement + CV/resume including name, date of birth, address, telephone number and e-mail address + Two references (no letters) with name, title if applicable, phone number and email contact.
Mail your fee:
  • Application fee of $25 - Check payable to VCU SSP to this address:

    VCU Summer Studio Program
    Box 842016
    1000 W. Broad Street Room #351
    Richmond, VA 23284-3005


Program Director at

Applications that are incomplete, unreadable, late, or fail to meet the above requirements will not be submitted to the jury.

Please Note
  • There is no application form.
  • All checks and mail must be addressed to VCU Summer Studio Program.
  • We request proof of health insurance; if you are unable to provide proof of health insurance you will need to sign a release and waiver of liability form.
  • SSP fosters artistic growth; university credit is not available. While program graduates may apply for admission to VCU’s MFA programs, SSP is not a portal to admission.
  • There is no financial aid available for SSP.
  • SSP does not focus on any specific medium.


2019 PROGRAM SESSION: JUNE 3 – JULY 24, 2019


  • Deadline for Application: April 26, 2019
  • Notification of Acceptance: End of April
  • Program deposit $200: May 6th, 2019
  • Program Fee due $4,750: May 20, 2019
  • Program Session: June 3 – July 24, 2019
  • Orientation: Sunday, June 2, 2019


Contact Program Director at