VISUAL ARTS FACULTY AND STAFF Faculty Art Work by: Dave Rueckert Visual Arts Logo

Cece Wheeler

Chair Visual Arts Department
Image of Cece Wheeler Chair of Visual Arts Department Thomas Nelson Community College

Cece Wheeler is a Professor of Art at Thomas Nelson Community College where she chairs the Visual Arts Department. She has taught at Thomas Nelson for 16 years and currently teaches digital video, motion graphics, advertising design and digital imaging. She received her undergraduate degree from VCU and her MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has exhibited her printmaking and photography internationally for the past 18 years. She is currently integrating video and multimedia into her work to examine the complexities of feminine identity and domestic boundaries.

She has received numerous Best in Show awards for her artwork. Her most recent honors include Best in Show ‘Women Artists’ at Soho 20 Gallery in New York, 3rd place award at the Artists Who Teach Exhibition at Charles Taylor Arts Center and an Honorable Mention award at the 2016 Virginia Artists Exhibition. She has also had her video work accepted into the NY City Women’s Film Festival at the Museum of the City of New York.

Chris Bavaria

Adjunct Instructor Photography
MFA Documentary Photography
Chris Bavaria Photography

Chris Bavaria is a Richmond, Virginia based portrait photographer. Originally from South Central Pennsylvania, he received a BA in Art from Millersville University and then went on to receive an MFA in documentary photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

You can see his work on the likes of The Travel Channel, Playboy Magazine, AOL, Delaware Bride Magazine, Juxtapoz Magazine, Metro New York, Alternative Press, Brooklyn Vegan, and the Washington City Paper.

In addition, he can be found teaching photography at Christopher Newport University and Thomas Nelson Community College.

David P. Rueckert

Associate Professor of Art
Professor of Art Dave Rueckert

David Rueckert is an Associate Professor of Art and has been teaching full time at Thomas Nelson since 2006. His teaching assignments include Computer Graphics, Graphic Design for Studio Arts, Portfolio and Resume Preparation, Digital Illustration, Design for the iPad, Drawing, 2D and 3D Fundamentals of Design, History of Film and Animation, 2D Animation, 3D Computer Modeling and Animation, and Web Design. Prior to Thomas Nelson he taught courses in Animation and Digital Arts for six years at George Mason University, and Computer Graphics and Photography at Germanna Community College.

Professor Rueckert received an MFA in Art and Visual Technology (AVT) with a specialization in Digital Arts from George Mason University (GMU) in 2003. While at GMU, he was awarded the AVT Graduate Teaching Scholarship for three consecutive years and the Wachovia Bank Endowed Scholarship in the Visual Arts. Mr. Rueckert received his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from University of Mary Washington (UMW), where he also earned Art Department Awards in Photography, Sculpture, Textile Design, Painting, and Printmaking. He was the first student to have artwork purchased for the UMW Galleries Permanent Collection through the Melchers-Gray Scholarship in Studio Art Purchase Award.

Professor Rueckert enjoys making artwork and experimenting in a variety of media, for personal enjoyment and to support his varied teaching assignments. Prior to his life in art and education he earned a BS degree in Business Administration from Bucknell University and worked in management and sales positions.

Helen Lowery

Instructor of Studio Art and Art History
MFA of Fine Arts in Painting
Image of Helen Lowery Visual Arts Instructor

Helen Lowery has taught Studio Art and Art History courses at TNCC since 2010. She completed her Masters of Fine Arts in Painting at Wayne State University in 2005 and her Bachelor of Environmental Science at Washington State University in 1999. Recent exhibitions (2015) include a solo exhibit at the Lee Matney Gallery in Williamsburg and Mid-Atlantic New Painting at University of Mary Washington. She teaches Art History 101 and 102 online for Thomas Nelson Community College.

Jacqueline Merritt

Instructor of Studio Art - Fine Art

Jackie Merritt has taught drawing, painting and design at Thomas Nelson since 2007. She recieved her Master of Arts in Painting from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1070 and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education from Norfolk State University in 1968.

A nationally know artist and musicain, she is very active in the local arts community. Jackie is currently serving her fourth year as a Commissioner on the Hampton Arts Commission: she has also, on a local level, received numerous awards and honors:

  • 2016 New Power Generation National Juried Exhibition, Hampton University “Dr. John T. Biggers Drawing Award”;
  • 2016/2015 Virginia Artists Juried Exhibition “Honorable Mention,” The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center;

In 2010, she received an Alli Award, for her Outstanding Contribution to the Cultural Life of Greater Hampton Roads (Art/Music). In the summer of 1971, Jackie had the honor of spending several weeks as a guest of Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiu, New Mexico.

Janice Hathaway

Professor of Art
Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Photography

Professor of Art Janice Hathaway is an artist, educator and designer. She started teaching Graphic and Media Design at Thomas Nelson Community College in 2008. Prior to moving to Virginia, she lived in Hawaii for twenty years and taught at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, Hawaii. Janice has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Photography, from the University of Alabama. Recently, she was invited to exhibit her surrealist photo-collages and to produce a book about her career at The Eugenio Granell Fundación in Santiago de Compostela Spain. Two of Professor Hathaway’s works are part of the Fundación’s permanent collection.

Joshua Ostraff

Assistant Professor of Art
MFA in Painting and Drawing
Image of Professor Josh Ostraff

Josh Ostraff serves as an Assistant Professor of Art at Thomas Nelson Community College in the Fine Arts Area. He received his BFA in painting and Drawing at Brigham Young University and his MFA in Painting and Drawing at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus. Josh is a multimedia artist who has exhibited his paintings, drawings, films, and art books both internationally and nationally with a strong interest in community-based collaboration and art projects. He is constantly looking out for ways to use art and design as a means to explore, question, create, discuss, connect, and engage. If you have a project or idea that can help in this direction he encourages you to please contact him. 

You can follow his work at

Michael Wessel

Instructor and Teaching Assistant / Lab Technician
Portrait of Staff member in black and white

Michael Wessel is an Instructor I and also the Teaching Assistant/Lab Technician. He completed his Masters of Fine Arts in Photography at Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007 and his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at Columbia College in 1990. His talents have earned him several awards and solo exhibitions over the years. He teaches Studio Lighting and Large Format Photography for Thomas Nelson Community College. His photography can be seen on his website at

Michelle Dean

Assistant Professor of Art
Master degree in Art History
Image of Michelle Dean Art Professor at Thomas Nelson Community College

I was born and raised in North Carolina.

I earned an Associate degree in interior design at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte in 1991, a Bachelor degree in fine art with a minor in history from Christopher Newport University in 2000 and a Master degree in art history from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2003.

I started working at Thomas Nelson as an adjunct in fall of 2003 and became a full-time faculty member in 2006. I started out teaching the principals of design here but now teach various art history courses including survey courses and courses in modern art and the history of graphic design. I teach both online and on campus.

Olga Nosova

Art History Instructor
Master of Art History
Image of Olga Nosova, Art History Instructor at Thomas Nelson Community College

Olga I. Nosova is an art historian and educator with over 25 years of teaching experience.
Ms. Olga Nosova was born in Moscow (Russia) and studied at St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk universities (BS/MS). She received her second Master’s degree in Art History at St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts – the oldest and leading art school in Russia. Ms. Nosova worked as a curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts “Tsaritsyno” in Moscow. In 1994, she came to the US to work on invitation by the Smithsonian Institution and began teaching art history in 1997. A Docent Emeritus at the National Gallery of Art, she also gives talks on Russian art and culture at the universities and museums. Ms. Nosova has been with Thomas Nelson since 2010.

Peter Geiger

Painting & Drawing Instructor
Peter Geiger - Fine Arts Instructor Thomas Nelson Community College

Peter Geiger was born in Lubbock, TX. His father was in the Air Force, so he and his family moved frequently while he was growing up, finishing up high school in Germany. Geiger graduated from JMU in 1996, and later moved to Richmond where he gravitated towards teaching jobs at the K-12 levels. After a few years, Geiger left again, pursuing an opportunity to teach art in Africa, through the Peace Corps. After this brief but rewarding experience, Geiger returned to Norfolk and earned a MFA from ODU in 2007. Since then, Geiger has taught at the college level and shows his art regularly in the Hampton Roads area.

Randie Trestrail

Teaching Assistant / Graphics Lab Assistant / Web Master
MS Accounting, AAS Computer Arts
Image of Randie Trestrail

Randie assists students in the Visual Arts program with the Adobe applications. She is also the webmaster for the Visual Arts department. In addition, she does freelance web design and environmental advocacy work. She spent many years as critical care nurse before making a career change to design. Her greatest passion is to use her design skills to further environmental sustainability. She also enjoys the study human consciousness and philosophy.

Sarah Puckitt

Photography Instructor
MFA Fine Arts in Photography
Image of Sarah_Puckit_Photography_Instructor

Sarah Puckitt received her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from San Jose State University and her Bachelor of Arts in Art from Northeast Louisiana University. Her passion for photography began in the darkroom watching a print develop. Her interest in non-silver processes led to a career in the museum field. She moved to Hampton Roads to become the Curator of Photography/Photo Archivist at The Mariners’ Museum.

Suzanne Demeo

Adjunct Instructor-Art Department
Suzanne_Demeo Instructor Thomas Nelson Art Department

Suzanne Demeo has taught drawing classes at TNCC since 2010. She completed her Masters of Science in Printing Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1983 and her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1978. Suzanne had a solo exhibit at the Contemporary Art Center in Ausust 2016. She has been teaching studio art classes at The College of William and Mary for 17 years and has been exhibiting her work with the William and Mary studio art faculty at the Muscarelle Museum of Art since 2004.