Congratulations! VCUarts Undergraduate Research Grant 2017 Awards

Published on December 14, 2016

VCUarts Undergraduate Research Grants – 2017 Awards

Congratulations to the 12 teams selected to receive funding for their spectacular ideas representing a wonderful mix of topics.

Coyle, Cummings, & Lowe

We plan to visit and study an abandoned particle accelerator and present our findings in a multimedia installation that will engage We plan to visit and 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. Particle accelerators are mile-long, billion dollar instruments that mash parts of atoms at each other in order to forge an understanding of human existence in the eternal scheme of the universe. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory located in Batavia, Illinois had built the Tevatron particle accelerator that would place us as the global leader in particle physics. Funding was pulled, and thousands of scientists were devastated as they had to continue working near the abandoned remains of the accelerator tunnel where they would have conducted their experiments.

Award: $2,535.54

Team Members:
Alexandra Coyle, Creative Advertising, Photography & Film, and Product Innovation
Shannon Lowe, Photography + Film, minor in Art History
Grace Cummings, VCU Spring 2016 alum, Physics, PHD candidate in Particle Physics at UVA

Faculty Mentors:
Jon-Phillip Sheridan, Photography and Filmmaking

Fundamental Solitude

Based on one of the team member’s personal history of incarceration, we will create an installation that explores the phenomena of jail construction. Designed to control behavior, the architectural systems used by jails inform and control inmates daily function. Through rigorous research into the contemporary architecture of incarceration, we will use these functioning institutions to create models and construct an architectural installation. As part of this installation, we will re-contextualize objects sourced from detention supplies as sculptures, giving them a new context to explore their unique social function and materiality. The culminating exhibition of this installation will be in conjunction with a space hosted for the group Performing Statistics, an advocacy project that connects incarcerated teens with artists and civic leaders in Richmond.

Award: $2,435

Team Members:
Charles Heebner, Painting and Printmaking
Logan Wyatt, Sculpture and Extended Media

Faculty Mentors:
Corin Hewitt, Sculpture and Extended Media


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. We are collaborating with students from Photography & Film to create promotional materials; Crafts & Material Studies to design and construct a set piece; Painting & Printmaking to create artwork; and Theatre for stage management. Journeys will showcase several artistic voices responding to the dualities in post-adolescent struggles such as grief & loss, ugliness in manufacturing external beauty, contending with one’s racial identity, and understanding the line between sexuality and sensuality. In addition, a collection of curated artworks and visuals inspired by our dance pieces will be on display in the theatre lobby. We seek to engage our audience with kinetic storytelling and inquiry to deepen our investigations of ourselves and the systems, societal norms, life choices and personal truths that shape our reality through dance.

Award: $2,730

Team Members:
Christine Wyatt, Dance & Choreography
Jelani Taylor, Dance & Choreography
Taylor Black, Dance & Choreography
Angelique Scott, Crafts/Material Studies: Ceramics & Art Education

Faculty Mentors:
Lea Marshall, Dance & Choreography
Scott Putman, Dance & Choreography

Capturing the Quadruped in Motion Capture Systems

Motion capture labs provide an invaluable resource to the arts and entertainment industry by allowing for fluid and realistic motion to be used in 3D graphics. VCU currently provides their own motion capture equipment to VCU students in the Depot, the new cross-disciplinary space. This equipment provides the foundation for students to explore countless ways to apply animation in their own artistic and professional practices. We propose to build upon this foundation by adding the capabilities for quadruped motion capture, and documenting our process so that future students can continue to build upon our research and execution.

Award: $915

Team Members:
Dawn Carr, Communication Arts
Virginia Stephenson, Communication Arts
Morgan Colonna, Communication Arts
Katelyn O’Leary, Communication Arts
Katharine Thompson, Communication Arts, Scientific and Preparatory Medical Illustration Concentration
Belle, Dog

Faculty Mentors:
Matt Wallin, Communication Arts
John Henry Blatter, Interdisciplinary Technology and Media, The Depot

Forgotten News, Forgotten Names

Forgotten News, Forgotten Names boldly presents a short film “Hell You Talmbout,” (co-directed by Denzel Boyd, VCUarts Graphic Design 17’) that artfully addresses police violence, racial injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement through spoken word, and a tap dance performance from the perspective of our youth. In partnership with Studio 23 and the VCUarts Dance Department, our team proposes a series of events to follow the initial public screening–a screen printing session and a social dance workshop–engaging the community with the themes of the film. Our aim is to not only share the short film but to highlight the convoluted and pressingly urgent matters and activate our bodies through art forms in order to exercise this change. Through these determined modes of movement our community will be left encouraged and charged to understand why we must say their names, see their names, and feel their names. Building this sense of empathy towards our black community will stimulate not just a moment but rather a movement towards radical transformation of ideals and consciousness. Ultimately these intiaitives will establish a common ground for diverse audiences to come together and enjoy the art of printing and dance.

Award: $2,702

Team Members:
Denzel Boyd, Graphic Design
Talia Levinas, Graphic Design
Christina Hairston, Communication Arts & Design
Maya Jackson, Photography & Film
Amanda Barnes, Painting & Printmaking

Faculty Mentors:
David Shields, Chair, Graphic Design
Sandra Wheeler, Graphic Design

Vmodern Furniture Design

This team seeks to design a suite of handmade, non-traditional stools that provoke playfulness, imagination, and positive social interaction. Turning a critical eye to today’s dominant video game subculture, children are being spoon-fed entertainment. These objects will serve both as a toy and a functional piece that encourages the child’s natural creative response. The team aims to explore the union of jaunty shapes, spunky colors, and handcrafted joinery to create one-of-a-kind furniture pieces that enhance user concentration and experience. The stools will be designed to be played with, crawled through, swiveled, or rocked; these stools will be built for movement. The collection will be entered in the next Vmodern Furniture Design competition.

Award: $1,645

Team Members:
Esther Cho, Interior Design & Craft/Material Studies
Yeji Hong, Communication Arts

Faculty Mentors:
Sterling C. Hundley , Communication Arts
Bohyun Yoon, Craft/Material Studies

The Fire Fawn

The Fire Fawn is an animated story about adolescence and friendship between a young child and an incandescent deer. The story deals with the loss of parental figures, the trials of adolescence, and overcoming deep-seated phobias. An innovative use of CGI will be employed to present the story, which will screen at the end of the Spring Semester, 2017. Additionally, the piece will be submitted to the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival and other well known academic, student, and professional film festivals.

Award: $1,850

Team Members:
James Heyes, Kinetic Imaging
Meredith Brindley, Kinetic Imaging

Faculty Mentors:
Bob Kaputof, Kinetic Imaging
Stephanie Thulin, Kinetic Imaging

Edmund the Snail – Stop Motion Animated Short Film

Our 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. The story focuses on the concept of human versus animal lives by placing a snail looking for revenge in the seat of power over a person. The majority of our team’s members are senior level cinema students, all of which have worked in large groups on a minimum of five completed short films (most have worked on more). We will work together under our specific positions on the project to tell the story efficiently and enjoyably, with a goal of submitting a completed product to film festivals and documenting our progress through social media tools such as Instagram and Facebook as well as on the Edmund the Snail website.

Award: $1,500

Team Members:
Lucas Alexander, Cinema, Writing/Media Studies Double Minor
Zack Rogers, Kinetic Imaging
Arielle Bryant, Cinema Major, Philosophy/Sociology Double Minor,
Jesse Hosick, Cinema Major, English/History Double Minor
Tori Lusik, Cinema Major, Creative Writing/History Minor
Kyle Brady, Cinema Major, Business/Art History
Matt Williams, Cinema/Criminal Justice Double Major
Allen Simmons, Cinema Major, History/Sociology Double Minor

Faculty Mentors:
Kirk Kjeldsen, Cinema
Pam Turner, Kinetic Imaging


Lumarium is an interactive sensory environment combining new media and tactility in a non traditional exhibition experience. One night each month, our team will enhance a space with projected imagery, enveloping surround-soundscapes with colored lights programmed to respond to frequency and volume, and handcrafted pillows, enabling participants to bathe in the space’s atmosphere. While galleries and museums have historically discouraged contact between viewer and work, Lumarium blurs exhibited content with its environment, inviting both active engagement and passive immersion. This project will serve as a new gathering point for community engagement in Richmond, offering media artists a chance to submit work that ts an experimental space, and allowing participants removal and repose from their everyday environment.

Award: $2,443.00

Team Members:
Marin Leong, Kinetic Imaging
Jackie Lu, Kinetic Imaging
Roya Sodei, Sculpture + Extended Media

Faculty Mentors:
Stephen Vitiello, Kinetic Imaging

A Sustainable Digital Art Show

We are an interdisciplinary collective connected by our interest in digital art. Forty-two billion tons of E-waste are shipped illegally to Africa with the hope that they will be recycled. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of waste is reprocessed. The rest rapidly accumulates, polluting the environment with lead and mercury. We will address this problem through an exemplary curated show of digital art that examines the implications of E-waste’s dispersion. Our electronic objects, carefully chosen, are meant to be reintegrated into the art world with a minimal environmental footprint.

Award: $1,900.00

Team Members:
Meredith Brindley, Kinetic Imaging
Claudine Reyes, Kinetic Imaging, Mathematics
Illya Lykinin, Kinetic Imaging
Hannah McKalips, Graphic Design
Costantino Toth, Kinetic Imaging, Art History
Marin Leong, Kinetic Imaging, Art History
Kevin Moun, Kinetic Imaging
James Heyes, Kinetic Imaging
Brianna Ondris, Kinetic Imaging

Faculty Mentors:
Stephanie Thulin, Kinetic Imaging

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). Investigating the audience response to an often historically blurred past, the project intends to push the boundary of Black storytelling within the Richmond theatrical aesthetic. In examining the idea that our country has moved past racial divides and social erasure, we seek to understand how to contextualize the continued rise in cultural appropriation, police brutality and the ongoing criminalization of the black community.

Award: $3,000

Team Members:
Mikayla Bartholomew, Theatre Performance
John Tyler Ludwig, English
Malik Sparrow, Kinetic Imaging

Faculty Mentors:
Bostin Christopher, Senior Acting Professor

Shifting Focus on Identity, Community & Inclusivity “By what means do you understand yourself in the world?”

By what means does one understand oneself in the world? I will ask this question directly via interviews to those I connect with in Richmond, Baltimore, New Haven, and NYC. I propose filming interviews to be digitally uploaded and accessed through a public website domain. I seek a more direct investment in the arts and creative communities to explore the socio­political relevance critiquing the understanding of ‘myself’ and ‘those surrounding me.’ How is an artist’s praxis re­framing social change? The anthological videos ultimately serves the public a multicultural and intersectional lens crucial to explore contemporary society.

Award: $530

Team Members:
Aki Vander Laan, Sculpture & Extended Media, Art History
John DiJulio, Photography & Film major

Faculty Mentors:
Janelle Proulx, Department of Photography & Film