To the VCUarts student body,

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts is a dynamic place—one where daring minds engage with creative practice.

This year is a significant one for the school, as it marks the 90th anniversary of Theresa Pollak’s first art class at Richmond Professional Institute. Pollak’s vision for a school of the arts was shaped by a series of principles—values that are as core to our identity today as they were in 1928.

This year, we reflect on how these values have shaped our history and are laying the groundwork for a future of excellence—a future inspired by the creative daring of Theresa Pollak, along with generations of students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters. Today, our school is one where the possibilities aren’t just limitless, but are likely to take root and flourish. Our artists, designers, performers and scholars are engaged in myriad creative work. They are re-imagining transportation at the SpaceX Hyperloop challenge; pursuing entrepreneurial, cross-disciplinary research projects; changing the face of creativity in the Middle East at VCUarts Qatar; landing internships with artists, studios, fashion companies, publications, museums, dance companies; and so much more.

Opportunities to get involved
I am excited to see the unexpected places our collective creativity and drive will take us in the coming year. Please mark your calendars for the following opportunities and initiatives:

  • General Demotion/General Devotion, a national design ideas competition to facilitate discussion about the future of Monument Avenue, will take place throughout the year. Registration closes Sept. 15, 2018, and entries are due on Dec. 1.
  • On Nov. 6, we will celebrate Qatar Day, an annual event to strengthen our relationship with our Qatar campus by showcasing the work and culture of our students in Doha.
  • Scores of visiting artists—too many to list here—will share their knowledge and experience with the VCUarts community. Keep an eye on our new calendar for everything you need to know about upcoming lectures.
  • Every year, VCUarts awards a total of $30,000 in grants to support undergraduate innovation and entrepreneurship. Apply for an Undergraduate Innovation Grant and you could receive up to $5,000 to develop an interdisciplinary project, product or service.
  • VCUarts also encourages graduate students to pursue creative and scholarly work, both on campus and around the world. Apply for research and travel grants to support your endeavors.

Faculty research
I encourage you to learn everything you can from our faculty, who are leading creative practice, electrifying the imagination and producing art that serves society. Your gateway to the art world is a public university that’s doing the public good—a place where artists, scholars, and pioneers from every discipline take VCUarts beyond what’s possible, for the benefit of humanity everywhere. In the coming year, we will continue to break boundaries, pioneer research and catalyze collaboration—every day. These are just a few of the creative endeavors and innovative research projects happening this year:

  • John E. Nestler, MD, is the school’s first Physician-Scientist in Residence, a position intended to accelerate collaborations and interactions between VCUarts, the School of Medicine and the College of Engineering.
  • Pam Lawton, EdDCTA, associate professor of Art Education, will be the second VCUarts Tate Exchange Associate, in conjunction with her Fulbright Visiting Professorship at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She will use the Tate Modern’s resources as inspiration while pursuing community-based art education research with London’s borough of Islington.
  • With the support of a Presidential Research Quest grant, Jill WareJohn Henry Blatter and Dr. John Nestler will use virtual reality and first-person narratives to increase empathy and lessen bias in medical students. Their project, Embodied Empathy, will allow medical practitioners to experience their patients’ symptoms firsthand with the hope of improving patient care.
  • Hope Ginsburg, associate professor in the Painting + Printmaking department, will continue her collaborative and socially transformative artworks as a fellow at the Arts Research Institute.
  • Choreographer, media artist and performer Kate Sicchio, Ph.D., is here as a new hybrid professor—an artist whose work crosses disciplines and departments. Her work explores the interface between choreography and technology with wearable technology, live coding and video systems. Kate will serve as assistant professor of dance and media technologies in the departments of Dance + Choreography and Kinetic Imaging

Administrative updates
This year, we’ll welcome several new faces, as well as move some of our faculty, staff and programs to new spaces.

  • We begin this semester with a complete team of professional academic advisors who are serving all of you in every degree-granting department and program. This highly skilled team will help you navigate not only your curriculum, but the endless opportunities to apply your learning in directions that excite and engage you now, and in life after college.
  • We are reimagining our use of the Depot space. I realize the Depot has been a popular venue for hosting visiting artists and lectures and to hang out; however, there are a number of campus spaces are available for departmental events, including the Grace Street Theater, the Commons Theatre, and the Student Commons, the ICA auditorium, the library, and the Academic Learning Commons. And if you need a place to study and don’t want to head to the library, the Rams Lounge just got a makeover. As part of the changes at the Depot, the second floor is now home to our Cinema program.
  • We recently engaged iFactory to build a new website for VCUarts. iFactory has an extensive body of work in the higher education space, including redesigns for MassArtBennington College and Flagler College.
  • In the Dean’s Office, James Wiznerowicz, DMA, has stepped into the role of Interim Senior Associate Dean. James oversees academic affairs and will manage the promotion and tenure process until we can conduct a search for the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.
  • David Ross has joined the Dean’s Office, serving as a special assistant. He will be assisting me with ongoing work related to our Doha campus, as well as providing policy expertise as VCUarts grows in national prominence and impact.
  • Margaret Lindauer, Ph.D., will serve as the Interim Graduate Studies Director, Stephen Vitiello will be the Interim Chair of Kinetic Imaging, and Terry Austin will be the Interim Chair of Music. Andrew Ilnicki will also have a new role as the Director of Digital Innovation.

As you can see, our 90th year will again be one of creative daring, where we will join together to move VCUarts to a new and dynamic future, built on the core values that have guided us for generations. I look forward to celebrating this milestone in our history, and sharing this forward momentum with you.

Shawn Brixey

Dean Shawn Brixey

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



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August 22, 2018