Graduate students contribute significantly to the scholarly community within the department. As members of Art History Graduate Students Association (AHGSA), they organize an annual program of guest speakers, professional development workshops, and social events. This important suite of events fosters professional relationships among graduate students, faculty, museum professionals, alumni, and colleagues at other universities and/or in other fields.
Through their monthly meetings, the AHGSA also gathers input about departmental decisions that concern graduate students, such as requests for new technology (e.g., computers, printers, scanners) and policies/procedures for the Graduate Lab, which is a dedicated work space shared by all graduate students. AHGSA officers, who are elected each year, administer the association, while opportunities to serve on event planning committees are available to all members.
Current Graduate Students
Alexis Atkinson, M.A. Accelerated Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Museum Education, Interdisciplinary/Transdisciplinary Arts, and 19th-Century European Art
Education: A.A., John Tyler Community College (Liberal Arts); B.A., Virginia Commonwealth University (Art History, 2022)
Alexis Atkinson is a first-year M.A. accelerated student in Art History on the Museum Studies track, an assistant instructional tutor in English and Art History at John Tyler Community College, and a peer mentor for the VCU Mellon Pathways Program. Her research is mainly geared towards museum education and art’s appearance and interaction within other disciplines. She also has an interest in 19th-Century European Art. In the Spring of 2022, Alexis will receive her B.A. in Art History at VCU. In 2020, she received her A.A. in Liberal Arts. Alexis also enjoys creating her own artworks in her free time.
Ajana Bradshaw, M.A. Student, Concentration in Museum Studies
Research Interests: Conservation/Museum Studies/African American Art
Education: B.A. Virginia Commonwealth University in African American Studies & History
Ajana Bradshaw is a first-year MA student in the Art History program. Ajana received her Bachelor of Arts from VCU in African American Studies and History. During her undergraduate career, Ajana was selected to intern at The Valentine Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The Valentine internship allowed Ajana to gain helpful experience and a passion for museum work. In Ajana’s free time, she collect records, goes antiquing, and enjoys Richmond with her family and friends. She looking forward to continuing her education at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Sarah Ann Campbell, M.A., Ph.D. Student
Research Interests: 20th & 21st Century Visual Culture and Curatorial Methods
Education: B.A., B.F.A., University of Tennessee
M.A., New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts
Sarah Ann Campbell is a MA/PHD student and teaching assistant whose research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first century visual culture and curatorial methods. She began pursuing her MA in Art History at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, holds a BA in Art History and a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee, and earned a certificate in Introduction to Textile Preservation (instructed by Harold Mailand) from the International Preservation Studies Center in Illinois. Sarah was the Curator of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s art collection from 2013 to 2016 and is currently the Curator of the Virginia National Guard Museum. She has been interviewed by Hyperallergic (March 2015) and Spectrum News NY1 (May 2016) and co-authored an article on World War I campaign hats with Alexander Barnes in Military Trader (May 2017). Sarah enjoys giving community lectures and recently presented her talk When Preservation is Personal to the Daughters of the American Revolution and to the Mathews Memorial Library to share how to adapt museum preservation strategies for historic objects and archives in one’s home. [View Image]
Samantha Karam Encarnacion, Ph.D. Student
Research Interests: 20th Century American and European Art
Education: B.A., Old Dominion University;
M.A., Virginia Commonwealth University
Samantha is a PhD student and graduate teaching assistant whose research focuses on early- to mid-twentieth century American and European art, especially on theories of modernism and the avant-garde. Samantha is also interested in animal theory, feminist theory, and surrealist scholarship, which she incorporated into her 2013 master’s thesis, “Art and Becoming-Animal: Reconceptualizing the Animal Imagery in Dorothea Tanning’s Post-1955 Paintings.” As she begins her doctoral work, Samantha is expanding her research interests to include archival theory and practice, which she anticipates will form the basis of her dissertation.
Brooke Heiche, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Latin American and Latino/a Art
Education: B.A., James Madison University
Brooke Heiche is a M.A. Art History student on the Museum Studies track. She received a B.A. in Art History from James Madison University where she interned for the Lisanby Museum within their curatorial and collections management departments. Additionally, she served as a teaching assistant for NYC: Global Arts Capital study abroad program where she helped lead the undergraduates and also studied various conservation techniques on both older paintings and contemporary pieces. From this program, she presented her research, Conservation Controversies: Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon, at JMU’s 2019 Art History forum. Currently, she serves as a graduate teaching assistant for VCU’s Department of Art History, where she assists in creating a new general education course.
Anna Jennings, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Surrealism and Museum Studies
Education: B.A., James Madison University
Anna Jennings is an MA student and graduate teaching assistant with a concentration in Museum Studies. During her undergraduate career, Anna completed a senior capstone project on medieval Jerusalem and its sculpted Golden Gate through the Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader periods, which was achieved with the help of a university research grant to cover travel and on-site research in Jerusalem. She presented this research at JMU’s annual Art History Forum and received the 2018 Art History Forum Award. Anna acted as a gallery director for both Madison Union Art Galleries and Artworks Gallery at JMU. Additionally, she has interned and worked for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Anna is currently delving into the study of Surrealism as well as Museum Studies.
Sarah Edith Kleinman, Ph.D. Candidate, Curatorial Track
Research Interests: Modern and Contemporary Art in a Global Context, Museum Studies
Education: B.A., Political Science, Art History, Studio Art, University of Colorado at Boulder
M.A., Art History, Virginia Commonwealth University
Sarah Edith Kleinman is an Art History PhD candidate and adjunct professor. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art and museum studies. Her dissertation investigates the curatorial practices and exhibitions of Kynaston McShine, who is best known for organizing the first museum surveys in America of minimalism and conceptual art. Her area of specialization is twentieth- and twenty-first-century art in a global context, with a special interest in post-colonial, feminist, and literary theory. She is also interested in the intersections of political science and art history, which she incorporated into her 2016 master’s thesis, “Hans Haacke’s GERMANIA: Deconstructing the Historical Germanies.” Sarah interned in the Director’s Office and Curatorial Department at the VMFA. She has also worked as an independent digital archivist and conservator for artists Rubin Peacock, Myron Helfgott, and Marty Johnson. In the summer of 2019, she joined Reynolds Gallery to research and organize the exhibition Theresa Pollak: The Wonder of Life, which commemorated the 90th anniversary of VCUarts. Among many awards and grants, Sarah is the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship to Trinidad and Tobago and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Graduate Fellowship for Art History for 2018–2019.
Errol Nelson, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: 18th & 19th Century American and European Art
Education: B.A., University of Florida
Errol Nelson is a first-year M.A. student in Art History on the Museum Studies track, a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Art History, and the Vice President of the Art History Graduate Student Association. During his first year at VCU, his research and scholarly activities were generously supported by the Frederika and Paul Jacobs Graduate Merit Award in Art History. Informed by his committed service as a community activist and organizer, his research focuses on increasing diversity in museums, display of African-American Art, conceptions of race, and post-colonial discourses in the transatlantic art world. In 2020, he received a B.A. in History with a minor in Art History from the University of Florida, where he interned at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art and was a proud member of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. [View Image]
Abigail Ramsbottom, M.A. in Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Contemporary Art, Carceral Studies, Museums as institutions
Education: B.A., Stetson University
Abigail is a first-year MA student in the Museum Studies concentration. Their research centers on contemporary art with a focus on carceral studies and aesthetics. Abigail works through the lens of a prison abolitionist, considering the interactions between museums, media, incarceration, and artists who are experiencing or have experienced incarceration. In 2018, Abigail received a B.A. in Art History and Spanish Language at Stetson University in Florida. Abigail worked as a Gallery Assistant for four years, then Coordinator for a year at the Hand Art Center in DeLand, Florida. Abigail has taught English to speakers of other languages for four years and volunteered for a year at Tomoka Correctional Institution’s Community Education Project, a college in prison program. In their personal life, Abigail enjoys cold-process soapmaking and learning crafts.
Kassidy Strosnider, M.A. Student, Museum Studies Track
Research Interests: Classical Art and Architecture
Education: B.A., Washington and Lee University
Kassidy is a first-year M.A. student in Art History on the Museum Studies Track. She received her B.A. from Washington and Lee University in Classics while also minoring in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies as well as Medieval and Renaissance studies. While in undergrad, she was awarded the Thomas V. Litzenburg Jr. Prize for her work as a collections assistant within the Museums at W&L and as an intern at the Staniar Gallery, where she helped execute multiple exhibitions. Her interest in the Ancient Attic Greek language and Art History intersect in her senior thesis “Making Sense of Nonsense Inscriptions on Attic Pottery,” where she explores the possible explanations of inscriptions on pottery that seem to have no modern translation. After completing her undergraduate degree, Kassidy spent a year working at MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, VA.
Kate Sunderlin, Ph.D. Candidate, Curatorial Studies Track
Research Interests: American Art, Nineteenth-Century Art, with a particular focus on sculpture
Education: B.A., Pepperdine University (Art History), M.A.s from the University of Notre Dame (Art History) and the University of Oklahoma (Museum Studies)
Kate is a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University and is currently writing her dissertation on how plaster objects in Edward V. Valentine’s studio and the early Valentine museum play into the critical and art historical discussion surrounding the repercussions of racism, slavery, colonialism, and empire. She is acting as a consultant for the Valentine Museum’s reinterpretation of Edward Valentine’s studio in order to address its problematic narratives and redeploy the space as a location for community conversations about Lost Cause public art and mythologies, the Jim Crow era, and their continuing impact on the city of Richmond. She balances work on her dissertation and as a museum consultant with her work at the B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry, a business she co-owns with her husband. She runs the tour program, introducing guests to the field of campanology – the study of bells – as well as the daily workings of an active bronze foundry.