Contemporary art is an educational practice. Art does not emerge from educational spaces and practices (like a butterfly from a chrysalis); education provides the essential framework for understanding and valuing art. Museums are schools, students are artists, artists are students, art is study.

— Dominic Asmall Willsdon, Former Executive Director of the ICA at VCU

Education is undervalued as a cultural practice. The ICA at VCU will present a new annual award recognizing artists, collectives, curators, educators and writers whose work centers on contemporary art as a site of learning. The Common Prize will support activities at the intersection of art and education, including public pedagogy through art practice, learning-based community engagement in contemporary art, and art and design practices in any medium that are oriented to educational values.

The Common Prize will be presented annually to two practitioners (individual or collective) from around the world. Awardees will be selected by a rotating international committee.* Each recipient of The Common Prize will receive an unrestricted award of $20,000. In addition, recipients will be invited to participate in a short residency in Richmond. Supplementing The Common Prize, the ICA at VCU will also organize an annual symposium (beginning spring 2025) and produce a series of publications featuring award recipients.

Emerging as a vital topic in contemporary art in the early 2000s, education-centered art has seen a degree of institutional interest and support. In the years since, many artists, designers, educators and curators have explored the contribution of art to public pedagogy, the educational potentialities of artworks and the ways in which cultural and educational institutions serve art practices and communities; a number of museums (including the ICA at VCU), biennials and other venues have organized exhibitions and programs on these topics. Existing largely outside the art market, however, and still underrepresented in art’s systems of value, this multifaceted field of practice remains financially and institutionally precarious.

The name of the Prize evokes the nineteenth-century Common School Movement (the origin of public education in the United States) and the ways education-centered art practices engage with aspects of the common good.

The Common Prize for Art and Education is supported by a $500,000 gift from Pamela Kiecker Royall, in remembrance and recognition of Bill Royall. An integral part of VCU for half a century, Bill was dedicated to creating opportunities for both artists and learners.
* Common Prize recipients are selected from a group of artists, collectives, curators, educators and writers nominated by a multidisciplinary, international committee composed of curators, critics, and artists. The Committee will be formed in early 2024. The ICA is not inviting nominations for the Common Prize. Materials sent to the ICA for consideration can not be returned.