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Summer Sessions: Commonwealth

Jun 15, 2019 – Aug 18, 2019

Thinking out loud, in public about spaces we share

Creating dialogue about issues of public interest, getting people talking and laughing and debating about things that matter to them, learning from these conversations, and relying upon them to help guide our future programming—these are core to our work. This summer, discussion takes center stage with Summer Sessions: Commonwealth, the first of three summertime projects that will transform our first-floor gallery into a colorful, flexible space and will change week by week as it accumulates traces of evolving conversations. Please join us to add your voice to these discussions and your words to the gallery’s walls.



This year, we explore the historic and present-day implications of the term “commonwealth.” Week by week, we will hash out what it means to live in a commonwealth such as Virginia and how that commonwealth can and should evolve in the 21st century. Centuries ago, “the commonwealth” was understood to refer to a model of political organization whose goal was public welfare or the common good. The “commons” referred to a medieval notion of cultural or natural resources to which all members of society had access, and “wealth” referred to happiness or well-being. Considering both common wealth and common debts, through these sessions we will consider how we might recover the larger meaning and potential of “the commonwealth.” Themes include: Natural Resources, Built Environment, Dependence + Independence, Assembly, and Public Domain.



Join us for public sessions on select Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Planned with local hosts, the sessions will mix artists, designers, scholars, activists and other experts from within and beyond VCU and Richmond. Formats include: social hours, lectures, small-group conversations, workshops, performances, and screenings. Sessions are free and open to all. Those who seek deep study may participate in the entire sequence, or you may choose to join an individual event. Drop-in visitors are welcome to observe or join sessions if space allows.



The space is designed by DSGN AGNC + Fundacíon Horizontal + El Equipo Mazzanti, as “a place where individual stories and practices can connect, where we foster new relationships, knowledge, and a collective redefinition of the common.”



Summer Sessions: Commonwealth is organized by the Institute for Contemporary Art. The project is part of the ICA’s contribution to Commonwealth (working title), a multi-year collaboration with Beta-local (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Philadelphia Contemporary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).

Summer Sessions: Commonwealth

Jun 15, 2019 – Aug 18, 2019


Summer Sessions: Introduction

Saturday, Jun 15

1:00 PM–5:00 PM


Summer Sessions: Natural Resources

Jun 18, 2019 – Jun 23, 2019


Summer Sessions: Built Environment

Jun 25, 2019 – Jun 30, 2019


Summer Sessions: Dependence / Independence

Jul 1, 2019 – Jul 7, 2019


Summer Sessions: Assembly

Jul 7, 2019 – Jul 14, 2019


Summer Sessions: Public Domain

Jul 16, 2019 – Jul 21, 2019


Summer Sessions: Reflections

Jul 22, 2019 – Aug 11, 2019


Summer Sessions: Closing

Aug 13, 2019 – Aug 18, 2019


Summer Sessions: Commonwealth is a project that transforms the ICA’s Beverly Reynolds Gallery into an adaptable, welcoming space for a series of conversations about the historic and present-day implications of the term “commonwealth.” In addition to those structured programmatic moments, the ICA will open its doors to community groups in need of a gathering space. We invite you to host a team meeting, convene a neighborhood conversation, or brainstorm at a staff retreat in our Summer Sessions gallery this summer.

While we encourage you to consider how your group’s work might connect with a given week’s theme, having a thematic connection to the exhibition isn’t required. We ask that you not use the space for public performances or similar events; these gatherings should be more private-facing. We’re happy to make the space available free of charge, but be mindful that it will be booked on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Please use the request form below to submit your inquiry.


The ICA would like to extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributes their presence, voice, creativity, and care to this space and this project, including…


Project Initiators: Noah Simblist, VCUarts, and Stephanie Smith, ICA

Program Facilitators:
Duron Chavis
Rebecca Keel 

Program Collaborators:
Andrew Alli, Friends of the James River Park
Chaz Antoine
Janine Bell, Elegba Folklore Society
Marshall Brown, Princeton University
Carolina Caycedo
Heather Davis, The New School
DJ Ease
Free Egunfemi, Untold RVA
Pablo Guardiola + Michael Linares, Beta-Local
Chelsea Higgs Wise, WRIR’s “Race Capitol”
Patton Hindle, Kickstarter
Ice Cream Social
Kevin LaMarr Jones, CLAVES UNIDOS
Jonathan Knopf, Maggie Walker Community Land Trust
Bill Martin, The Valentine
Katherine McDonald, Historic Richmond
Daniel McGarvey, VCU Center for Environmental Studies
Carlos Medellín, Fundación Horizontal
DJ Nobe
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, The Conciliation Project and VCUarts
Quilian Riano, DSGN AGNC
Ryan Rinn, Storefront for Community Design
Gregory Sholette, Queens College
Kate Sicchio, VCUarts
Southerners On New Ground (SONG)
Jonas Staal
Brent Tarter, Library of Virginia
Brooke Taylor + Tanesha White, WRIR’s “Critiques for the Culture””
Melissa Vaughn, WRIR
Jackie Washington, 6PIC
Whitney Whiting, WRIR’s “End of the Line”
WRIR’s “Local Voices Live”
…and others

Program Development: Erin Hanas, Caroline Legros, Enjoli Moon, David Riley, Noah Simblist, Stephanie Smith, and Dominic Willsdon 

Spatial Design: DSGN AGNC + Fundación Horizontal + El Equipo Mazzanti
Additional design support from Andy Clifford, Michael Lease, and Ed Williams

Graphic Design: Meredith Carrington and Grace Hoffman

Production + Installation: Payton Baril, Samantha Best, Andy Clifford, Nick Crider, Nick Fagan, Warren Jones, Dylan Languell, Margo Lentz-Meyer, Ricardo Vincente Jose Ruiz, and Sandy Williams IV\

Visitor Services: Payton Baril, Malia Bates, Lillian Cook, Griffin Davis, Alyssa Evangelista, Kyla Garland, Laketch Haile, Madison Hall, Erin Hanas, Madeline Honig, Michelle Koppl, Madeline Maier, Kyle Maurer, Andrea Medina, Jessica Melgar, Dan Nemer, Devonte Robertson, Gus Rasich, Erica Taylor, Emerson Tedder, Luis Vasquez, and Tyler Wiseman

And also…

Initiated as part of the ICA’s contribution to Commonwealth (working title, 2020), curated by: Noah Simblist, Stephanie Smith, and Dominic Willsdon (for the ICA); Pablo Guardiola, Michael Linares, and Sofia Gallisá Muiente (for Beta-Local); and Nicole Pollard and Nato Thompson (for Philadelphia Contemporary).

Thanks also to Teaching Assistant Luis Vasquez and the students in the VCUArts Spring 2019 undergraduate seminar, Commonwealth: Anthony D’Angelo, Malia Bates, D’Anna Johnson, Berkley Cutlip, Eli Trees, Erica Taylor, Wansu Kang, Meighan Cahoon, Cora Georg, Alex Haller, Erika Hastings, Brittany Horner, LaRissa Rogers, Julea Seliavski, Clayton Turner, and Scarly Zhao.

The ICA is committed to commissioning and supporting the production of new art and ideas. All ICA staff members contribute in important ways to making projects at the ICA possible. The credits above acknowledge specific contributions to the production and presentation of Summer Sessions: Commonwealth—from those on and beyond the ICA’s staff.