New Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU will open in October

Designed by Steven Holl Architects, building is a gateway between university and city, anchoring Richmond’s vibrant arts district

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VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art.

Contact for media in Richmond:
Carol Anne Baker Lajoie
Institute for Contemporary Art
Phone: 804-828-2777

Contact for media outside of Richmond:
Megan Ardery / Juliet Vincente
Resnicow and Associates
Phone: 212-671-5178 / 212-671-5154
Email: /

Editor's note: The schedule has changed for the ICA opening. The planned opening is now in spring 2018. For more details, see -

On Oct. 28, Virginia Commonwealth University will unveil the Institute for Contemporary Art, a new, noncollecting contemporary art institution designed by Steven Holl Architects. The ICA’s inaugural exhibition, “Declaration,” will explore contemporary art’s power to catalyze change, and will feature painting, sculpture, multimedia works, site-specific installations and time-based performances by emerging and established artists.

Featuring new work by artists from around the globe, including Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., Marinella Senatore, Tania Bruguera and Paul Rucker, the exhibition will also include artists from Richmond’s vibrant arts community, such as VCU School of the Arts professor Stephen Vitiello and VCU alumnus Levester Williams. Examining themes of protest, social justice, connection and creative community, “Declaration” will remain on view through Feb. 25, 2018.

The $41-million, three-story Markel Center, home of the ICA, is located at the intersection of Richmond’s historic Belvidere and Broad streets, one of the city’s busiest junctures. The ICA provides a striking new gateway for Richmond, with dual entrances opening to the city’s arts district on one side and VCU’s Monroe Park Campus on the other. Free of charge to all visitors, the ICA will be a significant new cultural resource for Richmond and VCU, in direct dialogue with the VCU School of the Arts, the No. 1-ranked public school of art and design in the United States. The ICA will offer a vital new dimension to a premier urban research university, and contribute to a national and international cultural dialogue. With nearly 41,000 square feet of flexible space, including an inviting 33-foot high central forum, the ICA will feature a dynamic slate of changing exhibitions, performances, films and interdisciplinary programs. Its fluid spaces are designed to support the diverse practices characteristic of the art of today, mirroring VCU’s interdisciplinary approach and supporting the varied needs of contemporary art and audiences.

“We are thrilled to unveil the ICA in October,” said Lisa Freiman, director of the ICA. “Steven Holl Architects’ design provides a platform for deep experimentation and engagement. I am eager to open the ICA to our neighbors in Richmond, the VCU community and the world as a welcoming forum for collaboration and dialogue. Our diverse program will introduce visitors to artists from around the world, offering a variety of perspectives to inspire new ways of thinking, create meaningful connections and explore the central issues of our times. These aims are exemplified in our opening exhibition, ‘Declaration,’ which considers the roles of art, artists and cultural institutions in times of intense debate and social change.”


About ‘Declaration’

“Declaration” will assert contemporary art’s vital role in society through works that raise urgent questions about the state of the world and how artists and other citizens choose to respond to our times. The exhibition will explore questions of speech and silence, conflict and connection, the interrelation between the many and the one, and between institutions and the communities they serve. It will demonstrate how artists participate in civic conversations, activate diverse creative communities and catalyze reflection and renewal. Featuring a cross-generational mix of artists who offer a range of perspectives and approaches, the exhibition will embody the range of formal, thematic and emotional decisions artists make in their work. The ICA’s open circulation will allow works to be experienced from multiple sightlines, reinforcing the importance of choice and agency and illustrating the wide-ranging responses art can foster.

“Our inaugural exhibition declares the ICA’s intention to provide a forum for dialogue and exploration that is both rigorous and generous. This exhibition and our future programs will be simultaneously grounded in a rich local context and engaged with global concerns,” said Stephanie Smith, ICA’s chief curator. “Artists respond to the pressing issues of our times — sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely. However they choose to speak, their work opens alternate pathways. Each choice we make has consequences. Each declaration of independence or connection, compliance or resistance, leads toward different futures. The works in ‘Declaration’ will invite reflection, debate, action and collaboration, making space for individual contemplation while also unleashing the power of multiple voices.”

Rendering of the exterior of VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, VA. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA is scheduled to open in 2016. Image courtesy of Steven Holl Architects.
Rendering of the exterior of VCU's Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, VA. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA is scheduled to open in 2016. Image courtesy of Steven Holl Architects.

“Declaration” will feature a number of new commissions and premieres, including:

Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape: The ICA will premiere an immersive media installation and launch a video game — two components of Burr and Heartscape's ambitious collaborative work “Aria End.” Drawing on independent gaming, literature, and experimental film, their project centers on “Aria End,” “a trans woman with cyborg guts,” who navigates a gorgeously rendered dystopian landscape.

Amos Paul Kennedy Jr.: Kennedy will create a new suite of hand-pulled letterpress prints for the ICA that combine socially conscious text and rich layers of color. They will be grouped into a large wall installation in the exhibition, and also shown at sites around Richmond to connect with the wider public.

Paul Rucker: The ICA will premiere a new installation, “Storm in a Time of Shelter.” The artist has reinterpreted KKK robes using diverse fabrics and patterns to illustrate the repetitive nature of history. During 2015 he made one robe per week. This will be the first showing of the full group, as well as new robes that Rucker will create in response to recent events.

Marinella Senatore: The newest edition of Senatore’s ongoing project “Estman Radio” will be a participatory installation that combines social space and a web radio station within the ICA. Beginning in spring 2017, Senatore will also lead a large group of Richmond citizens as they collectively write and produce a new radio drama. It will premiere as a live performance at the ICA and then become part of the Estman Radio web archive.

Stephen Vitiello: The new sound installation “whether there was a bell or whether I knocked,” supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, explores the power of multiple voices and the relationship between text and spoken word. It features recordings by creative professionals as well as local teens reciting phrases from Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941).

Additional artists featured in “Declaration” include Nidaa Badwan, Martín Bonadeo, Tania Bruguera, Chim Pom, Andrea Donnelly, Edie Fake, Hope Ginsburg, GWAR, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Kate Just, Titus Kaphar, Autumn Knight, Lily Lamberta and All The Saints Theater Company, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Noor Nuyten, Geof Oppenheimer, Cheryl Pope, Curtis Talwst Santiago, Jon-Phillip Sheridan, Deb Sokolow, Tavares Strachan, Betty Tompkins and Levester Williams, among others.

“Declaration” is co-curated by Stephanie Smith and Lisa Freiman, with Amber Esseiva, Johanna Plummer and Lauren Ross. The exhibition is made possible by Altria with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.


About the ICA’s Capital Campaign and Endowment
The ICA has raised more than $35 million in private funds to date toward its goal of $41 million for construction. An endowment campaign is also ongoing. The ICA is the largest privately funded arts project in VCU’s history and is supported by generous leadership gifts from ICA Campaign Co-Chairs Steve and Kathie Markel, and Pam and Bill Royall. Additional major donors include: John David and Meg Newell Gottwald, George W. and Helen H. B. Logan, True and Charlie Luck, Markel Corporation, Abby W. Moore, NewMarket Corporation, The Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, Patsy K. and Hunter R. Pettus, Jr., and Carolyn and John Snow.


About Steven Holl Architects
Steven Holl Architects has realized architectural works nationally and overseas, with extensive experience in the arts (including museum, gallery, and exhibition design), campus and educational facilities, residential work, and master planning. Steven Holl Architects is a 40-person architecture and urban design office founded in 1976, and working globally as one office from two locations, New York City and Beijing. Steven Holl leads the office with partners Chris McVoy and Noah Yaffe. Most recently completed are the Reid Building at the Glasgow School of Art (Glasgow, U.K.), which opened in April 2014; Campbell Sports Center at Columbia University (New York, NY), which was completed in March 2013; and the Daeyang Gallery and House (Seoul, Korea) which opened in June 2012. Steven Holl Architects currently has eight projects under construction, including the John F. Kennedy Center Expansion in Washington, D.C.; the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University; the Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa; and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.


About VCU and VCUarts
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with a diverse student body recognized for its commitment to community engagement, with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Dedicated to advancing scholarship and creative expression, VCU fosters interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond and a satellite campus in Qatar, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 216 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities. With a distinguished faculty of professional artists and 16 departments, including Craft/Material Studies, Fashion Design and Merchandising, Dance and Choreography, Graphic Design, Music, Painting and Printmaking, Photography and Film, Sculpture + Extended Media, and Theatre, VCUarts has been the top-ranked public university visual arts and design graduate program in the country for nine years, according to U.S. News & World Report. Its campus in Qatar provides students and faculty with a direct tie to the Middle East, a region of increasing significance in the contemporary art world. For more information on VCUarts, please visit:


About the Institute for Contemporary Art
The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a noncollecting institution that will showcase a fresh slate of changing exhibitions and programs ranging from innovative visual and performing arts to various forms of design and film. Part exhibition and performance space, part laboratory and incubator, the ICA will be a place to explore new ideas, providing an open forum for dialogue and collaboration across the region and the world. Mirroring the increasing emphasis on cross-disciplinary studies across VCU, the ICA will create a new environment for artists and scholars from around the world to test unconventional and challenging ideas. As a universitywide resource, it will engage an international network of contemporary artists and organizations while encouraging collaborations between audiences and contemporary artists and with VCU departments, faculty, students and the Richmond community. The ICA will be an agile, responsive institution that offers a broad range of artistic perspectives from across the world with the goal of questioning assumptions an encouraging critical discourse. To date, the ICA has raised $35 million towards its capital campaign. An endowment campaign is ongoing. Additional information on opening programming will be available in the coming months. For more information on the ICA, please visit: