The ICA is undergoing exterior repairs but remains open and fully activated.

Michael Lease wears many hats as the Director of Facilities and Experience Design at the ICA at VCU. Having started 7 years ago at the inception of the ICA to now leading all front of house operations, including the ICA’s cafe, retail, auditorium and visitor services, Michael understands the value of creative public spaces – and the importance of ensuring these spaces are available for generations to come. In Michael’s own words, “The ICA has more in common with sculpture than it does with other buildings” – the ICA like a sculpture, changes as a visitor’s proximity to it shifts, and throughout the day its exterior is affected by light, encouraging the onlooker to be aware of their body as they move past and throughout the space.There is great importance in taking care of the “sculpture” so it can be used for future students, artists, and faculty which is why you may see some repairs on the exterior of the building in the coming weeks.

We sat down with Michael to further discuss these changes and how the ICA is committed to preserving the future of the space:

Q: What is going on with the building?
Michael: You may have noticed stains on the exterior of the building for the last year or two. Unfortunately, dirt buildup from the nearby intersection combined with drainage from rainwater stained the zinc panels that cover the exterior of the ICA.

Q: Are you closed during the repairs?
Michael: Nope! The ICA is open for regular operating hours and will continue to show exhibitions, host programs and welcome the public to our cafe.

Q: What is being done to fix the staining?
Michael: VCU has hired contractors to remedy this issue. Starting on March 11 a team began cleaning and then sealing the panels. The purpose of this work is to restore the panels to the original design enhance the ICA’s appearance, and protect the surfaces from future staining. The work is scheduled to end by mid-April.

Q: What will be used to clean the panels?
Michael: Earlier this year, it was determined that the best way to clean the panels was with lemon juice, dish soap, and a cotton towel. We needed a process that was relatively mild but still able to lift off the major stains. Lemon juice cleans by producing hydrogen gas that gets between the dirt and the zinc, helping lift the particulates out of the zinc. This nontoxic cleaning process is safe for our environment.

Q: Will you have to do this again?
Michael: Following the cleaning, the contractor will seal the panels with a water based sealer. This will keep the panels from staining.

Q: Why spend time on this right now?
Michael: The ICA is a gateway between the City of Richmond and VCU. It is also at the busiest intersection of the city. We want to put our best face forward when welcoming our community, students and artists.

Q: What can I expect to see on the outside of the building in the next few weeks?
Michael: Between now and the first week of April, you can expect to the see scaffolding, boom, and atrium lifts being used by the contractors to reach every panel on the ICA. Depending on the area they are working, entry to the ICA may be re-routed. Please keep an eye out for signage directing you to the safest way inside. You’re also likely to see me overseeing the work, and making certain visitors can safely enter the ICA. Please stop by say hello, and let me know what questions you have!