Dear VCUarts students,

Welcome back and Happy New Year. A new year brings new opportunities for our school as we continue to redefine what is possible through the arts. This spring marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in the history of VCUarts, with the long-awaited public opening of the ICA and a new international partnership with the Tate Modern in London. It’s a great time to be a VCUarts student, with opportunities throughout the semester to meet professional experts and collaborate with your peers. Here are a few things to note happening this spring:

  • News about the ICA — today, VCU announced that Joseph H. Seipel, dean emeritus of VCUarts, has agreed to serve as the interim director of the ICA. Seipel will fill the role left vacant by Lisa Freiman, who announced last week that she was stepping down as director to focus on scholarly projects at VCU. In April, the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU will open to the public with its inaugural exhibition “Declaration.” This exhibition includes the work of VCUarts alumni Andrea Donnelly (MFA ’10) and Levester Williams (MFA ’16), along with faculty members Hope GinsburgPaul RuckerJon-Phillip SheridanStephen Vitiello, and many others from the VCUarts community. A student preview will be held on Thursday, April 19, and a community block party will be held on Saturday, April 21. This is a historic moment of national significance and one you will not want to miss. I hope you will attend the opening and look for ways to engage deeply with our campus partner in the arts.
  • Of international significance, I’m pleased to announce our partnership with Tate Modern London through the Tate ExchangeThe Tate Exchange is a collaborative program that considers how art can improve the lives of people and society. At the Tate Modern, it is also a space for artists and community members to meet, share ideas and discuss the contemporary influence of the arts. Assistant Professor of Photography John Freyer will be our school’s first Tate Exchange Associate, building on his Fifty/Fifty project for an international audience and emphasizing creative expression as a means of assisting in recovery and reducing the social stigma of individuals struggling with addiction. Tate’s Director of Learning Anna Cutler will also be visiting VCUarts, with a public talk on February 22.
  • In an effort to continue to acquaint myself with you and for you to learn more about me, I will be hosting three “Lunch with the Dean” events this semester. Lunches are planned for Feb. 14March 1, and March 29. Keep an eye out for a digital invitation to reserve a place at the table.
  • I know we’re all looking forward to the 2018 Undergraduate Juried Exhibition and MFA thesis shows. Curator Alex Klein, from the ICA Philadelphia, will serve as juror for the undergraduate exhibition, to be held at the Anderson on March 16. Round one and two of the MFA thesis exhibitions will open on April 6 and April 27, respectively.
  • Mark your calendars: the VCUarts Fashion Show: Momentum is set for May 10 at the Main Street Station. Our talented fashion merchandising students will be organizing this event for their design peers under the supervision of Assistant Professor Rudy Lopez. This annual show is a hallmark for VCUarts and the City of Richmond, drawing an audience from across the country to see our students’ outstanding work. Keep your eye on VCUarts’ social media channels so you can be the first to order your tickets as soon as they become available.
  • I’d like to congratulate this year’s winners of the Undergraduate Student Research Grants. For over a decade, this program has underscored our commitment to funding your ideas and investing in arts research at our school.

I also have some administrative updates I’d like to share. One of my main priorities for this year is Adjunct Faculty pay. Last semester, I worked with the VCU administration to ensure that our adjunct faculty members are paid, at minimum, $1,000/credit hour on an ongoing basis. I am deeply committed to all of our VCUarts faculty and our adjuncts are a valuable and vital part of our learning community. To that end, I have asked Sarah Cunningham, Ph.D., Executive Director for Research at VCUarts, to convene an Adjunct Pay Task Force to look at adjunct faculty needs across all departments and programs and recommend strategies to improve their quality of life. To begin work, the task force will collect and study adjunct compensation and policies at peer institutions and public research universities. The task force will convene as soon as classes begin, complete data collection in April, and produce a report by fall 2018. We will provide the community with regular progress updates, including a preliminary report in May.

Also of note, after five years of exceptional administrative service, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Faculty Affairs James Frazier, Ed.D., will be returning to the Department of Dance + Choreography as a faculty member, beginning in the fall. His work with Inclusion Infusion has helped to expand diversity and inclusion at VCUarts. Dr. Frazier has been a valuable part of my leadership team, working diligently to strengthen our community and I am extremely grateful for his service. During this transition, I have asked Associate Professor Paul Thulin to step in as the Interim Director for VCUarts Graduate Studies.

Every year brings exciting changes to VCUarts. Spring calls us to rededicate ourselves to our practices, our research and the cultivation of new ideas. I look forward to sharing the new discoveries and innovations we’ll make in 2018.


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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January 17, 2018