A detailed look at VCU Institute for Contemporary Art’s upcoming programming & inaugural exhibit ‘Declaration’

by | Apr 28, 2017 | MUSEUM / GALLERY

VCU’s Institute of Contemporary Art, known as the ICA, has released details on its inaugural stretch of programming, including its opening exhibition, “Declaration”. The ICA partnered with several contemporary artists, faculty and students from VCU as well as local talent to build relevant and far-reaching projects leading up to the October 28 opening.

Johanna Plummer, Curator of Engagement and Education, spoke at length on the ICA’s focus on lifelong learning for all curious-minded individuals and groups interested in the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, from teens or students at VCU, to members of the general public.

“Our galleries, public spaces and auditoriums will be used for educational purposes making the ICA in its entirety a dynamic classroom,” she said Tuesday morning. “To create programming that is relevant to our future visitors, we are hosting a series of radical listening sessions for VCU audiences and people across Richmond. We held three meetings here at VCU for students, faculty and staff.”

There will be additional sessions on May 11th, 18th and 25th for the Greater Richmond community hosted by the Richmond Library Main Branch and Plummer said by the end of June they will share the details of the sessions.

These programs and projects span ICA internships for high school and VCU students to a Student Advisory Council.


Photo credit: Chris Utley. Gilbane Building Company

This coming fall, the ICA and VCU will offer a course on Contemporary Art Museums and Interpretation where. upon completion, students can apply to the Student Guide Program.

“Student Guides will receive ongoing training in ICA exhibitions and tour strategies and will be paid to lead interactive tours for the public,” said Plummer.

The ICA will continue to provide programming incorporating feedback the VCU community, Richmond community and contemporary artists by erecting an interdisciplinary group of VCU faculty advisors to provide insight and feedback that will strengthen exhibitions and programs.

“The ICA will be launching a Faculty-in-Residence program this fall bringing diverse perspectives to our galleries and partnership with the university,” said Plummer. “Here through art, we can connect the knowledge of research at VCU to a wider community.

The faculty-in-residence will give talks in the building as well within the community.


Photo credit: Gallery Four in progress, February 2017. ©Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU

The Department of African American Studies, Arts Research Institute at VCUarts and iCubed (or Institutional Inclusion, inquiry and Innovation) at VCU round out the other mentioned collaborators for upcoming projects and programs with the ICA.

“Two visiting artists in residence and a scholar in residence [along with iCubed] will work across disciplines and with key community partners to examine and advance racial equity in and through arts and culture,” said Plummer. “We will develop curriculum, teach courses and initiate special collaborations that address racial equity- a key issue facing the museum field nationally.”

Many of these partners in the community and at the university have already shared dutiful insight that will undoubtedly add to the message behind “Declaration”, the inaugural exhibition.

The opening of both the ICA and “Declaration” will kick off in a free block party at the intersection of Broad and Belvidere which will include music, interactive art projects, including food trucks, breweries and more.

The “Declaration” exhibition will embody ICA’s belief of the transformative power of art and artists. The name of the exhibition is purposeful in that the actual show will serve as a declaration from the ICA and the university on the importance of contemporary art and ideas here at VCU and in Richmond.

“Declarations mark beginnings,” said Stephanie Smith, one of the lead curators of “Declaration”. “Think of the show as a statement of intention; it’s a promissory note of the kind of institution we want to be: welcoming, experimental, challenging, dynamic and relevant. We hope that audiences will find all of those qualities in our opening show as well as in our future work as an institution.”

Themes of protest and resistance, speech and multiple voices, choice and agency, attention and reflection and the power of diverse creative communities will manifest in the work and exhibition in many different ways.

“Performance will also be part of the program because it’s a vital part of today’s art,” said Smith. “I want to reinforce that for the opening show, we’re really thinking about performance as part of the exhibition, not an event that is separate from the core show. It’s just work that happens to be temporary.”

These temporary installations of performance art will happen in and outside of the building.

“Declaration” will take over the entire building, from all four gallery spaces to the less conspicuous spots in the building. All spaces will be filled with pieces from over 35 artists that include a select group of VCU faculty, alums, Richmond-based artists and emerging and established global artists.


Credit: Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape, Still from Aria End, a work in progress. Image courtesy of the artists

“Some [artists] are frequent starts and some are new-comers that we’re really proud to be introducing,” said Smith. “Some of the works have never been seen before. We’re going to present some older work that feels relevant right now but the work in the exhibition really focuses on recent work, as well as a number of new commissions and works created specifically for the ICA to help launch our institute.”

Marinella Senatore and Amos Paul Kennedy Jr, a wet-press printmaker based in Detroit are working on collaborative projects with the Richmond community that will be shown in “Declaration”.

“[Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.] proposed a beautiful project to us which involves working with barbershop and salon owners around the city,” said Smith. “He and Amber Sevalle, our fabulous curatorial assistant, are talking with [barbershop and salon] clients and people in their communities about topics, collecting phrases and sayings then conveying those back to Amos who will incorporate them into some prints.”


Credit: Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., Letterpress prints, installation view Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio, 2015, Image courtesy of the artist

Paul Rucker, a multimedia artist and musician who was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, will also have work displayed in “Declaration”. His work will be one of the largest works that will be presented in the show. In his work, he is addresses questions of structural racism and repeating patterns of history.

Following the first exhibition, “Declaration”, the ICA plans to create a long-term program that will be expanded on closer to the ICA public opening with 46 changing exhibitions or major projects each year.

“The mix will include bringing some exhibitions from other institutions, big-idea exhibitions that really connect to the most pressing issues of our time and provide a breadth of contemporary art practices, focused looks at individual artists and major commissioned work,” said Smith.

Tico Noise

Tico Noise

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