We believe in collaborative leadership that considers and values all the voices in our global community.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
March 23, 2022
Dear VCFA Community,
Two years ago, the world awoke to a pandemic and all it would come to mean for citizens across the globe. VCFA, as an arts and education community, came together and did what resilient, caring communities do—we supported each other, found new ways to connect and learn together, and held constant the belief that art would help us find our way through.
Now, just as we are emerging from the exhaustion of the pandemic, we find ourselves looking straight into the eyes of another devastating war, not only in Ukraine but in other regions of the world, as well. We are witnessing a geopolitical instability that we have not experienced for a long time. As people across the world fight desperately for their right to live and self-govern, we are reminded of both the preciousness and fragility of democracy.
In 2004, Toni Morrison wrote in The Nation, “Dictators and tyrants routinely begin their reigns and sustain their power with the deliberate and calculated destruction of art… Such despots know very well that their strategy of repression will allow the real tools of oppressive power to flourish.” For those of us living in the United States, we are experiencing another kind of attack. Not bombs and tanks, but local and state legislation working to silence our artists, our voters, our histories, and personal identities. Morrison’s culminating message in that article was an emphatic call for artists to continue to speak up. In the face of global wars and violence in the United States, in opposition to malevolence and injustice, we find recourse, wisdom, and healing in art.
More than ever, I am proud to be a part of this vibrant and committed community. I feel an even deeper urgency to protect and nourish our community of storytellers who play an essential role in helping people cultivate compassionate understanding, expose injustice, and share outrage at the violence we inflict upon each other and our precious planet. Despite these challenges, we continue to join together, grounded by our responsibility to safeguard the right to creative expression in all its forms.
I know the exhaustion of the last two years is real. I know fear for the future is palpable. I urge you all to find support and healing in each other and in our community. Pace yourselves, replenish, encourage each other, and find ways to keep creating. Keep telling your stories. And keep telling us how we can better support you in your art.
In peace and gratitude,
August 30, 2021
Dear VCFA Community,
As I write to you today, I’m acutely aware of the many ways the world continues to shift beneath our feet. I’m equally aware of the steady and consistent way in which this community has moved forward, creating solid ground upon which to face that changing landscape. We have just concluded four wonderful summer residencies full of workshops, readings, exhibitions, performances, and more. I continue to be struck by how the college as a whole grows ever richer through both the unique characteristics of each of our programs and the common values that guide us. Your dedication and creativity inspires us as we work to craft our next strategic plan.
Over the last year, we have been working in collaboration with our Board of Trustees to lay the foundation for a plan that is shaped by two guiding principles: to empower artists in their careers through life-long engagement and to inspire them to use their creative practice as a force for change; raising awareness, challenging the status quo, and creating new paths forward. As we look to the future, we seek to nurture our far-reaching community of artists and to create opportunities for storytellers and changemakers who are so often overlooked to share their experience. We strive to become an arts college that both honors and expands the landscape of the arts and increases the impact of wide-ranging creative expression.
We are excited to share with you four strategic initiatives that are shaping our work this year. In creating these initiatives, we’ve invited input from our trustees, faculty, and staff. We are excited to report that the college has already begun to implement programming in the following four strategic areas:
We will lead student-centered arts education for graduate students by developing innovative, flexible, and interdisciplinary programs that further our low-residency model through flexible learning opportunities, certificate programs, and semester-long intensives.
Equity & Empowerment
In support of our Statement on Community Values, we will examine our policies, practices, and behaviors surrounding how we teach, what we teach, and the ways we support our community. We will empower our students, faculty, and staff to build inclusive learning and working environments.
Lifelong Engagement & Support
We will create a lifelong partnership with our alumnx to support their artistic careers by establishing inclusive, content-driven engagement opportunities for community support, artistic enrichment, and professional development.
Center for Arts + Social Justice
We will be a platform for change by supporting and amplifying voices at the intersection of arts and social justice. We will provide meaningful opportunities for artists to challenge the status quo, inspire change through their work, and build the foundation upon which we may envision a more just and equitable future.
As the only arts college exclusively devoted to graduate-level arts education, we see these strategic priorities as key components in fulfilling our responsibility to support the role of artists at all stages of their journey. In an imperfect and ever-evolving world, the arts sustain us, empower us, and provide us with the strength to turn life’s unexpected challenges into new opportunities.
March 22, 2021
Dear VCFA Community,
It has been a year since the college took its operations remote, a year marked by challenge and hardship, as well as extraordinary accomplishments, heroic efforts, and acts of generosity. I recognize the magnitude of loss and sense of exhaustion many of you are feeling and know the ripple effect of this extraordinary year will be felt for quite some time. I am also humbled and grateful for the unexpected gifts we have experienced as a result of how this community came together and met these challenges. I want to take this moment to thank you.
To students: Thank you for your faith and courage to travel with us to new modes of learning and residency. Thank you for your input which helped us continually improve how we teach, encourage and support you as artists. Thank you for always being there for each other and continuing to enrich and build the bonds of community that make VCFA unique.
To faculty: Thank you for picking up the challenges of teaching during a pandemic—not to “get through”—but with enthusiasm and your signature commitment to excellence. Thank you for finding the hidden opportunities and benefits the digital world could provide for our students and building on them in new and exciting ways to teach, encourage and support their work.
To our alumnx and donors: Thank you for strengthening your commitment to each other as artists and to our community by coming together to support each other, offer enrichment, and contribute financially to support the school.
To our staff: Thank you for being undaunted as you moved operations to your homes, juggled childcare and eldercare and family concerns and all the challenges, large and small, that came with this pandemic, all the while, bringing your characteristic commitment to excellence to your VCFA community and responsibilities.
As we move into the future, we will bring what we have learned this past year with us. In reimagining how to be an educational community of artists, we used our creativity to look past artificial constructs that once governed how we thought about teaching, gathering together, and sharing experiences. In doing so, we expanded our sense of what’s possible. We bring this mindset with us as we begin to lay the foundation for creating our next strategic plan this coming fiscal year.
Thank you for bringing your whole hearts to our work together this past year. We could have not done it without the courage, creativity, and commitment to each other that has always characterized our VCFA community and that continues to guide us.
March 18, 2021
Dear VCFA Community,
We write to share our grief as a result of the tragedy that unfolded on March 16 leaving eight people dead in Atlanta, six of whom were of Asian descent. The event underlines an epidemic of anti-Asian racism and hatred exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We will not dilute and deny the injustices our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities experience in this country: injustice to one group is an injustice to us all. As a community, we must condemn the violence and hate directed towards the AAPI communities with our collective and unified voice.
From 2019 through 2020, we have seen a nearly 150% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, rooted in fear and xenophobia fueled by harmful and derogatory language that unjustly blames the AAPI communities for the COVID-19 pandemic. As an arts community, we intrinsically understand the power of written, verbal, and visual expressions. The irresponsible use of language and actions run counter to our values and commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive community.
Our world is experiencing a significant loss. Many use this collective experience to find community, heal, love, and be present. Many others use it as a vehicle to cement racism, sexism, white supremacy, and anti-Asian sentiments and carry out violence towards groups of people based on ethnicity and race. Many within our VCFA community are hurting and processing these senseless, incomprehensible strings of tragedies. We urge you to check in on each other, to find community, and commit to not being a bystander in the face of injustice. Speak up and voice the truth to racist and anti-Asian remarks and aggressions.
Our thoughts are with the victims and those who are most impacted by this within our VCFA community. If you need support or guidance, please contact the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, or Student Services. Contact information is provided below.
Our words have power—our actions matter.
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Vice President for Student Services
January 18, 2021
Dear VCFA Community,
Today we pause to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In inspiring and leading a national movement for equal rights and justice, Dr. King left behind a powerful legacy by grounding the movement in the opposing tensions of an unflinching critique of systemic injustices and racism with radical compassion. Actively continuing this legacy feels more urgent than ever; as we reflect on our nation’s history, and the current reality mirrored so poignantly in the police brutality we witnessed this past summer and the recent violent insurrections by white supremacists against our government and the peaceful transfer of power.
Dr. King, an advocate of nonviolent direct action, understood the power of language and used poetic expression to educate and activate people from all walks of life in his mission to create lasting change. His eloquence was instrumental in bringing people to act energetically against the injustices inflicted on people in marginalized and disenfranchised communities. As artists we understand the power of creative self-expression to inspire possibility. VCFA recognizes in its mission the power of the arts to educate and move people to action—to not only reflect reality but to create it.
We believe we have an institutional responsibility to continue the work of Dr. King by providing space and opportunity for our community to engage in learning, and to build organizational capacity to lift and amplify all voices through the arts, especially those who have been historically marginalized, disenfranchised and underrepresented. We are constantly seeking to expand our impact within and beyond our MFA programs, and in that pursuit, we have established the Center for Arts & Social Justice at VCFA, whose mission is to inspire community-based change through the arts.
As you reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and the work that we need to do within our community, consider how you might leverage your voice, and forms of expression to support the vision expressed in our Statement on Community Values. And we invite you to enjoy this video expression of the statement produced by our MFA in Writing Program prior to their recent residency.
June 1, 2020
Dear VCFA Community,
On May 25th, we witnessed yet another senseless, unjust death of a black person at the hands of the police, the third in a series of senseless deaths over the last several months that have race and racism at their core. When we speak of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, or George Floyd, we are speaking not only of three individuals whose lives were snuffed out for no reason other than the color of their skin, but of a lethal sickness in our country that runs much deeper. It is a systemic ailment with implications that go beyond the criminal justice system. The recent events of the COVID pandemic alone show that our history of injustice has led to people of color bearing a disproportionate burden of illness and death as a result of COVID-19.
In response, protests have been reported in at least 75 cities across the county. People of all races are exercising their democratic right to protest and be heard. The ACLU is calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate George Floyd’s death. We can be hopeful that one outcome of these protests might be that people will no longer be able to turn their heads and ignore the gross injustices that give lie to the words written in our Constitution, that all this activity will move in the direction of real change.
And yet, our community is in pain with feelings that include anger, hurt, and desperation in wondering if the day will ever come when all Americans will have equal rights. My heart goes out especially to those in our community who have personally experienced the inequities and injustices in our society caused by racism and prejudice. We recognize and support the many artists and writers in our community of students, faculty, and alumnx who have been inspired to address issues of social justice through their craft and their teaching, as well.
We stand with you and with all those who fight for a better and more just world.
At VCFA, our mission reads in part: “We believe that the arts are central to the human experience and have the ability not only to reflect reality but also to create it.” Every time we enroll a student in one of our programs, we are helping them to develop their voice and their craft in order to tell their stories—stories that educate and inform and create the opportunity for empathic response, stories that can propel us to imagine and then act to create a different future. As a college, we are committed to continuing our own work around equity and inclusion so that we can better attract and serve people from all backgrounds and diverse life experiences, nurturing them in their artistic practice and, in doing so, helping to bring their crucial stories and perspectives into the world.
I believe it is our responsibility to continue to seek ways in which the college can increase our impact in supporting the intersection between art and social justice. The struggle for justice and equality will not go away when the protests die down. We will continue as an institution to ask the hard questions and work to expand our reach in developing artists and writers who can cross divides, bring increased empathy and understanding to our country, and help propel us to a more enlightened and equitable world.
With both sadness and hope,