Ashland is full of artists, artisans and craftspeople but we are also fortunate to have some residents with careers in arts education. Meet Kerry Lucinda Brown. She is an art history educator and a “new” Ashland resident. Thirty-nine year old Kerry lives in town with her husband, Ryan Mashayekh, and their almost five year old son Henry.
What brought you to Richmond?
After living and working overseas for several years, I decided it was time to come home and figure out what to do with myself. I was hired as an adjunct for the School of World Studies at VCU teaching Religious Studies courses and fell in love with VCU and Richmond. I commuted from Norfolk to Richmond several times a week, but once I was accepted into the PhD program at VCU we moved up to Richmond. It was an easy decision for me to attend VCU for my PhD because I wanted to work under the leading specialist in Nepalese Art, Dina Bangdel, and be close to the fantastic collection of South Asian and Himalayan art at the VMFA.
Where are you teaching currently?
I’m an adjunct faculty member, meaning I do not have a full-time position, but rather I am hired to teach courses as needed by colleges and universities. At the moment, I teach at three institutions: Virginia Commonwealth University (Art History), Randolph-Macon College (Asian Studies and Art History), and Rappahannock Community College (Art). I primarily teach courses in art history, but Randolph-Macon provides me the opportunity to also teach Asian Studies courses, which I love. At RMC, I teach courses on South Asian culture, film, and popular visual culture. I am also engaged by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as a Museum Educator and Statewide Speaker on the Arts. This means I have the opportunity to introduce art history courses to diverse audiences through classes and lectures at the museum.
What drew you to art/art history?
Growing up in Norfolk, I was lucky to live in a culturally diverse city that had a rich visual and performing arts scene. For such a small city we had the Chrysler Museum, the Virginia Opera and the Virginia Symphony. But, I could also walk to catch a double-feature at the Naro Expanded Cinema and enjoy the vibrant art scene in Ghent. I think my interest in the visual grew from that early exposure to the arts. The power of the visual to communicate different messages has always fascinated me. As an art historian, I try to understand the meanings of these messages and the power of the visual arts to different communities.
What are your favorite types of arts and regions of art?
I specialize in the art and ritual culture of South Asia and the Himalayas. I’ve traveled extensively through India and Nepal for my research. My first exposure to this region was during a study abroad program in college that had me living in a Buddhist monastery in India for four months. During my first trip to India, I found myself mesmerized by the interplay of art, architecture, and ritual. After that trip, I knew I wanted to pursue Asian art in grad school. For me, the importance of a painting or sculpture goes beyond the formal qualities of the object; it is rooted in understanding how the visual forms promote or reinforce cultural meanings. I love watching the interplay of art and viewer at religious festivals, ritual performances, and other events. This has been the primary focus of my research and scholarship.
What do you like about teaching at RMC?
I really enjoy the small community of students, faculty, and administrators and have always felt welcome. I love that I can see students grow academically in my classes, but I can also catch up with them in the commons in a more casual environment. Also, the Asian Studies faculty are just a great group of people to spend some time with every day.
What brought you to Ashland?
Sara Holloway literally brought me to Ashland. We were living in an apartment in the Fan with our then two-year old. While we loved the city, we also wanted some more space. I demanded sidewalks and things to do in walking distance, while my husband said no suburbs. We also needed something that wasn’t too far from potential teaching positions for me and close to my husband’s office in Innsbrook. Sara’s frequent Facebook posts on life in Ashland was one of those things that made me consider moving north from the city, rather than to the West End or South of the James. Ashland was a happy middle ground.
What do you like about living in Ashland?
I love the walkability of Ashland most of all. I’m often away from town traveling from class to class, but being able to come home and relax in town is wonderful. There is so much going on in this community! It was certainly unexpected before we moved to town.
What would you like to see art education-wise in town?
I would love to foster new programs that expose children and adults to different cultures. Seasonal lectures on different cultural topics for broad, general audiences would be great. I also think that we could expand what’s being offered to reflect the different cultures and backgrounds in our community. (I also want to try to organize an Asian film festival for RMC & Ashland! Almost everyone associated with Asian Studies does film, so we could do it…it just needs to get organized! That’s my spring/summer plan.
Do you ever teach courses that are available to everyone?
I sometimes give lectures that are open to the public, but those are usually organized by some group or organization. At the moment I have an upcoming lecture in Williamsburg on the Terracotta Warriors in conjunction with the exhibition at the VMFA, but nothing on the horizon locally.
Who is your favorite artist?
That’s tough. Having taught the survey of art for so many years, I’m fortunate to teach about so many cultures, communities, and time periods. I love teaching about the Italian Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. Her work was deeply personal and powerful. There are definitely more layers to her work than the more obvious biblical references.
Interview with Sara Holloway (Hanover Arts & Activities Center) on Dec 29, 2017
*lightly edited for clarity