AFO show marks students’ successes

Mark Robinson
Staff Writer

Mikki Moore’s “Butterfly Piece” features 1,122 hand made wire butterfly wings

Nikki Moore’s fingers bled.

Fighting off the fatigue of four all-nighters in the past week, she manipulated the wires of her butterfly wings meticulously, threading her needle through each individual one.

Fast forward to 1,122 wings later, Moore’s work materialized into “The Butterfly Piece,” which is now being featured in the Art Foundation show in the lobby of the VCU Fine Arts Building.

“My favorite thing about this piece is there is no right or wrong way to present it,” Moore said. “It can take any form I choose and will never look the same twice.”

Moore is one of hundreds of students who submitted their work for consideration for the AFO show. Of the more than 300 student submissions that were assessed by a jury of faculty members, less than 40 were chosen to be featured.

Matt King, an assistant professor with VCU arts for four years, helped curate the AFO show and sat on the selection jury.

“The selection process isn’t necessarily about which piece is better than other,” King said. “We took into consideration what they were trying to say with the piece, the ideas represented and whether it was reflective of the incredible diversity in the program.”

A reception was held Wednesday night to honor the students with pieces in the show. The feature runs through next Monday and boasts work from the four studio courses in the art foundation program: Space, Surface, Time and Drawing.

Freshman Wade Angeli depicts himself sleeping 72 times in this self portrait.

All students accepted into the VCU arts school are required to complete the art foundation program before applying to one of the program’s 10 departments.

“Students are not only trying new things,” AFO director Elisa Armstrong said. “But creating a portfolio that’s ambassador to the departments they apply to, and says ‘this is who I am; this is my potential.’ ”

During this past week, students have received their acceptance letters into their respective departments. Graham Ohmer, for example, was accepted into the photography and film department. At the beginning of the year, he said he questioned AFO’s usefulness.

“I went into the year feeling unsure about how it would help my photography,” he said. “Now, I feel more confident in my entire art process. I’m better at organizing my ideas, getting started, and following through till i have a finished piece.”

Freshman Grace Huddleston said AFO gave her new perspective on her future.

“When I first came to VCU my intention was to major in craft and material studies, with a focus in wood working, but, like most AFO kids I changed my mind. So I applied for communication arts … ”

Huddleston’s change of mind is not unheard in the art foundation program. In fact, 60 percent of students that go through AFO willingly go into a different department than they originally wanted, according to Armstrong.

Wade Angeli’s cardboard replica of a urinal in the AFO building.

Despite the horror stories of countless hours spent on seemingly impossible tasks, King said that he doesn’t give assignments that intentionally cause students misery.

“As a professor, I don’t want to give students so much work that they can’t function,” King said. “But all-nighters are sort of a rite of passage; we do it as professional artists, too. They don’t end when college ends, so we’re preparing them for that.”

Looking back on the AFO experience, Moore said she is grateful that she was given a chance to grow.

“I would count AFO as the cherry on my college experience thus far,” Moore said. “Without it, I would not have been the artist or person I am now.”

As for the all-nighters, Moore said she would do them over again.

“Funny things happen in the wee morning hours at Bowe Street,” she said. “Nothing can replace that.”

For more information on the art foundation program or AFO show, visit

Photos by Mel Kobran

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