Sarah Bainter Cunningham

Dr. Cunningham currently serves as Executive Director for Research at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. In this position, Dr. Cunningham works with university, school, faculty, and student partners to expand VCU's presence as an international leader in arts research. These research projects generate original creative works, expand research partnerships with VCU's Qatar campus, develop new collaborations in arts and health, and advance projects for VCU's new Institute for Contemporary Art. In 2015, she leads VCUarts in hosting A2RU's Emerging Creatives conference, a studio-style think tank for students from 30 research universities nationwide.

Internationally, Cunningham serves as a U.S. representative to the Council of Europe's Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, as well as the author of the United States Profile for the World Cultural Policy database (through the International Federation of Arts Council and Cultural Agencies). She also serves as Research Associate to "Culturalizing Sustainable Cities," a project of the Cities, Culture, and Architecture Research Group at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Domestically, Dr. Cunningham supports arts education development through her leadership on the boards of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Survey (SNAAP), and the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities (A2RU). In 2012-2013, Cunningham co-chaired the policy committee for the CA CREATE initiative, an effort of State Superintendent Tom Torlakson's office to improve and increase arts education in California's pubic schools.

From 2005-2011, Cunningham held the post of Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts, founding the NEA Education Leaders Institute to develop arts education policy and strategy in 29 states. In addition to managing a portfolio of 250 funded projects per year, Dr. Cunningham served as Team-Lead for NEA's Literature and Arts Education divisions, oversaw Poetry Out Loud (A National Recitation Competition), and managed NEA's Jazz in the Schools program with Jazz at Lincoln Center. In addition, Cunningham was responsible for numerous research reports including "Improving the Assessment of Student Learning in the Arts," as well NEA's investment in the Strategic National Arts Alumni Survey. Cunningham also served on the Board of the Arts Education Partnership, with partners that included the U.S. Department of Education, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, and the Council for Chief State School Officers, as well as serving with the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. In 2011 and 2012, she was named in the top 30 most influential leaders in non-profit arts.

Cunningham received her PhD and MA in philosophy from Vanderbilt University, and continues to write and speak on aesthetics, political philosophy, and education. She teaches aesthetics to VCUarts MFA candidates in sculpture, painting, craft, art history and arts education. Her most recent research explores continental philosophy, creative cities and arts education, imagination in American arts education, and presidential politics and the arts. In 2014-2015, she will be presenting at the International Conference on Cultural Policy, International Council of Fine Arts Deans conference, College Art Association annual meeting, the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities conference, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education conference.