Introducing Assistant Professor of Photography, Creative Arts, and Visual Culture Veronica Melendez

Among the new faculty is Assistant Professor of Photography, Creative Arts, and Visual Culture Veronica Melendez, who comes to us after teaching photography at Bennington College. Professor Melendez's appointment is integral to the College's transdisciplinary approach for faculty hiring that focuses on bringing together different fields and disciplines in support of key areas of student inquiry. Melendez is an interdisciplinary artist working with illustration, photography, animation, and zines. Her work speaks to the broader theme of finding community within the Central American diaspora and creating home in the United States.

Melendez received her B.F.A. in photojournalism from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, studied abroad at the Glasgow School of Art, and earned her M.F.A. in fine art photography from the University of Hartford.

What are you passionate about when it comes to this work?

I’m passionate about being part of the much-needed change in higher education. As someone from the Central American diaspora, I feel strongly about taking up space in predominantly white institutions while having the opportunity to teach photography centering artists from the global majority. 

What is your teaching experience?

I was the technical instructor of photography at Bennington College for the past two and a half years. I managed all the photography labs, from the alternative processes labs and the lighting studio to the large-format printing lab. I also taught one or two courses a term and coordinated the Visual Arts Lecture Series for two terms. My courses have centered on zine/art bookmaking and pushing the boundaries of how we view photography outside the computer.

Have you been in any other professions that influenced how you teach and learn?

While pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I worked in the coffee industry. I went from being a barista, to roasting coffee, to training baristas all around Washington, D.C., to doing tech work on espresso machines, to ultimately becoming the director of coffee for a growing restaurant group in the D.C. area. Those years really gave me hands-on teaching experience and made me realize how much I enjoyed teaching. It was during this time that I finally taught my first college course, and I knew from then on that teaching photography was something I wanted to do. 

Tell us more about your arts publication and the work you’ve exhibited.

I founded an arts publication that features creatives from the Central American diaspora, La Horchata Zine. It has been active for six years now and is on its ninth issue. It has opened many doors in academia, such as doing zine workshops, artist lectures, and class visits, and was recently on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

I’m the curator of an exhibition featuring many Central American artists called Connected Diaspora: U.S. Central American Visuality in the Age of Social Media. The exhibit first went on view at Duke University in 2019 and then was on display at the University of Maryland in 2020. A larger iteration of this exhibit will next be installed at the Usdan Gallery, located at Bennington College. It will be on view for the entirety of the fall semester, from September 12 to December 2, 2023. 

What are you looking forward to at Hampshire?

I’m looking forward to teaching at an institution that embraces doing things differently in higher education and values improvement and change. I’m also excited to teach courses that I’m passionate about and to be around like-minded colleagues. 

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