VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2020 Program Session
Session 1: canceled
Session 2: canceled


VCUarts Summer Studio Program

2020 Program Session
Session 1: canceled
Session 2: canceled

Applications go live: December 1
Applications due: April 22

  • Note: applications are accepted on a rolling basis from December 1 — April 22

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 an immersive post-baccalaureate program for artists looking to develop their practice in a dynamic and supportive environment. Students interested in applying to graduate school can use this opportunity to expand their body of work, improve their written and oral skills, and deepen their experiences with critical and theoretical texts. We also welcome participants who simply want a uniquely productive environment and focused time to grow their work. Participants can expand their artistic communities and build a lasting peer group.

Each summer the departments of Painting + Printmaking and Sculpture + Extended Media at VCUarts combine facilities and faculty to offer this cross-disciplinary opportunity for either one 4-week session or a more extensive 8-week session. This non-certificate granting program combines theory and practice through seminars and critiques led by two core faculty and a dynamic roster of visiting artists and curators. Our studios are exceptional, faculty are generous and the possibilities are wide open.


2020 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 is core-faculty and co-director at the Summer Studio Program at VCU. He is currently a visiting professor in Painting and Drawing at The University of Iowa.
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.

2020 Visiting Faculty

Session 2

Amber Esseiva
Amber Esseiva is the Associate Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA VCU). A VCUarts alumna, Esseiva has been essential to the ICA’s programming since joining the institution. Esseiva co-curated the ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration (2018), and shows featuring work by Corin Hewitt, Jonathas de Andrade, Julianne Swartz, and others. Most recently, she curated Great Force (October 5, 2019 – January 5, 2020), the ICA’s recent exhibition featuring new commissions and recent work by an intergenerational group of 24 artists, exploring how art can be used to envision new forms of race and representation freed from the bounds of historic racial constructs. Esseiva has also curated Provocations: Guadalupe Maravilla (November 9, 2019 – July 1, 2020), the second iteration of the ICA’s annual commission series, which debuts new work by the El Salvador-born multidisciplinary artist and a solo exhibition by Martine Syms (February 16, 2019 - May 12, 2019).

Esseiva received her M.A. in 2015 from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard). At CCS Bard, she curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions featuring works by artists such as David Altmejd, Louisa Chase, Roe Ethridge, Gabriel Orozco, Jason Rhoades, Mika Rottenberg, Kenny Scharf, and Avery K. Singer. She also co-founded the interdisciplinary curatorial journal aCCeSsions and was appointed the curator of the 2014 M.F.A. graduate thesis exhibition at Bard MFA Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts. In addition to thesis exhibitions, she has worked closely with M.F.A and B.F.A students through professional development and mentorships.

From 2015 to 2016, she worked extensively curating exhibitions by emerging and mid-career artists. Highlights include Anything on a Surface has Space, a discursive event at The Judd Foundation; and a solo exhibition by artist and VCU alum Alina Tenser at A.I.R. Gallery. After her stay at CCS Bard, Esseiva was appointed director of Retrospective gallery in Hudson, NY; and curator at SEPTEMBER, in Hudson, NY.
Lily Cox-Richard
Lily Cox-Richard’s work engages cultural and material histories of vernacular forms and systems, probing questions of value, labor, and stewardship. LCR 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, TX), Hirschl & Adler Modern (New York), The Blanton Museum of Art (Austin, TX). LCR lives and works in Richmond, VA, and is an Assistant Professor in the Art Foundation Program and Sculpture + Extended Media Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Hope Ginsburg
Each of Hope Ginsburg’s long-term projects build community around learning. Her work is by turns collaborative, cooperative, and participatory. These artworks are made with peers, students, scientists, members of the public, and experts with knowledge from outside of the field. Rooted in first-hand experience, Ginsburg’s projects are invested in the socially transformative potential of knowledge exchange. Her practice is interdisciplinary, social, and concerned with the well-being of humans and other species on our shared and catastrophically troubled planet. Ginsburg has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as MoMA PS1, MASS MoCA, Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Wexner Center for the Arts, Kunst-Werke Berlin, Contemporary Art Center Vilnius, the Baltimore Museum of Art, SculptureCenter, and the Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre Brazil. She is the recipient of an Art Matters Foundation Grant and a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship. Her 2020 solo exhibition Sponge Exchange at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum was awarded an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Ginsburg has attended residencies such as the Robert Rauschenberg Residency, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Wexner Film/Video Studio and The Harbor at Beta Local. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Hyperallergic, and Artforum. She is an Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts and lives and works in Richmond, Virginia with her partner and collaborator Joshua Quarles and their three cats.

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.

Artists using painting, drawing, printmaking, or sculpture as their primary medium as well as those who work in new 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

Equity and Inclusion

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.


The program includes group critiques, individual studio visits, seminars focusing on theory and criticism, professional practice workshops, and an exhibition. In addition, visiting artists and curators will present their work and conduct studio visits. The program also provides opportunities to engage with the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU.

What to expect from each 4-week session:

  • 24/7 studio and facilities access
  • Lots of studio time
  • Weekly seminars
  • Weekly studio visits and ample feedback
  • Weekly visiting artists and curators
  • Weekly trips to museums, galleries, and artist studios
  • Weekly community events
  • Professional practice courses: Applying to Graduate School, Artist Statement Writing Workshop, Grant Proposal Writing, Applying to Residencies, etc.
  • Mid-Program in-progress group critique
  • End-of-program group exhibition
  • Each participant receives a final group critique with all program participants, core faculty, and program chairs

What to expect from the combined session:

  • The opportunity to dedicate two months to deeply exploring your practice
  • Two months of access to state of the art facilities
  • Two months of weekly seminars, studio visits, critical feedback, and deeper engagement with faculty and Richmond
  • Two group critiques (with the benefit of feedback from participants from both sessions)
  • Two group exhibitions (with emphasis on a major final show)
  • Access to the communities of both sessions

Participants are expected to work full time in their VCU studios for the duration of the program and participate in all seminars, critiques, reviews and events.

two 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. Participants have the use of painting and printmaking studios, woodshop, metalshop, computer lab, as well as University Library privileges. Technical assistance is provided in the sculpture shops and computer lab. Those with prior experience in screenprinting, etching, or lithography techniques may also access those labs.

Please note that the foundry does not run over the summer.

Click here to view Painting + Printmaking Facilities
Click here to view Sculpture + Extended Media Facilities

male student working in a studio

a student talks about his art in front of a podium


Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is a city of complex histories, diverse neighborhoods, and home to one of the largest park systems in the country. It is 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

Session 2: July 1-31 ($2,750)

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.

  • Program fees are payable by credit card only.


All applicants should submit:
  • Application form
  • Portfolio
  • Artist statement
  • CV
Complete the online application form here.


  • Final Deadline for Application: April 22, 2020
  • Notification of Acceptance: Early May (or earlier for rolling admissions)
  • $200 Program deposit for session 2: June 15, 2020
  • Session 2 program Fee due: June 30, 2020



Please Note

We are closely monitoring the conditions surrounding COVID-19.

We will notify the public if session 1 is cancelled by May 1, 2020.

We will notify the public if session 2 is cancelled by June 1, 2020.

in the event that a session is cancelled, all deposits and program fees will be refunded.

Program deposits for non cancelled sessions are nonrefundable.

Program Fees are nonrefundable once the session has begun.

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

Accepted participants must provide proof of health insurance or sign a release and waiver of liability form.

SSP does not award university credit for participation in the program.


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.”