The ICA will offer a generous, rigorous, and risk-taking curatorial program. We see this as part of VCU’s commitment, as a public urban research university, to uniting diverse audiences, informing and activating the cultural landscape of Richmond as a progressive Southern city, promoting inclusion and social justice, and posing important critical and creative questions to the academic community and the ICA’s audience at large.
In all of our work, we are committed to researching, supporting, and sharing the transformative power of art and artists. Planning has been shaped by our awareness of best practices and developing trends among international contemporary art institutions and university art museums as well as by our commitment to building a program that is uniquely grounded in our rich context. In developing its curatorial program, the ICA will continually ask the question, “What can the ICA contribute?” On an ongoing basis, we will assess what our new contemporary art institution is offering both to Richmond and within broader national and international conversations.
Beginning with its inaugural exhibition, Declaration, the ICA’s curatorial program will link the local and the global and reflect a range of approaches to contemporary art that embody our commitment to researching, supporting, and sharing the socially transformative power of art. Our curatorial program will include a combination of exhibitions, commissions, residencies and community-based and public projects, artist- led performances, events, film screenings, discussions, and research initiatives. It will be informed by ongoing evaluation and conversation with our neighbors, allies, critics, and colleagues. We intend to build long-term relationships with artists, students and scholars across all disciplines, community partners, and other citizens and institutions in Richmond and beyond who can help build and extend the reach of the ICA — and we hope to provide them, in turn, transformative encounters with great art and ideas.
Curatorial Framework 2018-2021
The ICA will maintain a three-year rolling schedule, in order to plan and fund major projects with substantial lead time while maintaining space to nimbly respond to new opportunities. While prioritizing exhibitions generated by the ICA (alone or in partnership with other institutions), we will periodically bring in projects organized elsewhere. To ensure impact beyond the ICA’s walls, all projects will have strong digital visibility via the ICA’s website and social media; some will be accompanied by publications; and select exhibitions will travel to other institutions.
Beginning in winter/spring 2019, the schedule will be keyed to VCU’s academic cycle, with longer-run exhibitions each fall and spring, and a shorter program during the summer. Each “season” will have a unique flavor:
Building on the ICA’s inaugural exhibition Declaration, a series of large, interdisciplinary, ICA-generated exhibitions will address themes of social relevance and local resonance. Each will include a diverse mix of artists from the region and around the globe who represent an array of approaches to artmaking. These projects will generally include commissioned work, public or community-based elements, and programs to engage wide audiences in thoughtful dialogue on the exhibition’s themes; they will be shaped by input from advisory groups. Periodically the ICA may break this rhythm through solo exhibitions that go deep into an individual artist’s practice.
Each spring, the ICA will present a medium-scaled exhibition (thematic or solo) in the large first floor space, the Beverly Reynolds Gallery. Concurrently, in the two second-floor galleries — distinct spaces that come together to form a “v”-shape—the ICA will host an ongoing series titled Dialogues. Rather than typical series that showcase individual artists, Dialogues will pair two solo exhibitions of artists chosen because they and their works have something to say to each other — which also echoes the classic art history method of comparing/contrasting works by two artists.
In 2019 the ICA will launch an annual Summer School. Each 4- to 6-week session is envisioned as a period of research and development, knowledge-exchange, and play that will experiment with methods to support artists, explore ideas, and connect with audiences outside traditional exhibition formats. Summer School will serve as one “node” for arts research initiatives described below, and could overlap with the School of Art’s Summer Intensive, among other potential partners.
Architect Steven Holl has described the soaring spaces of the ICA’s True Farr Luck Gallery on the ICA’s third floor as “a provocation to artists.” Embracing this notion, in fall 2018 the ICA will launch Provocations, an annual series of large-scale, long-term, site-specific commissions. The series will afford artists room to stretch, will offer audiences a work to visit again over time and across seasons, and will allow the ICA a context within which to explore strategies to re-engage audiences over an extended display period. The ICA will also periodically commission public works for long-term display on or near its building and grounds.
Other Research + Initiatives
The ICA will support interdisciplinary artistic research projects that explore mission- driven topics over extended periods. These may result in traditional exhibitions or be shared with the public through other means. The first such multi-year research project, Commonwealth (2018–2021) will bring contemporary artists and interdisciplinary thinkers together to explore art’s role in strengthening the common good. We expect that VCU’s Arts Research Institute will be a key partner in such initiatives, which will also be networked in and beyond VCU and Richmond in order to increase the impact of the ICA’s work.
Other initiatives will be developed through VCU’s iCubed initiative (Inclusion, Inquiry, Innovation), via a transdisciplinary partnership among the ICA, the Arts Research Institute, and African American Studies to address Racial Equity and the Arts.