ICA Welcomes Back VCU

School is back in session, and the ICA was there during the first week of classes to welcome new and returning students, pass out some swag, and educate curious-minded individuals on all things ICA.

“We have new and returning students coming back to campus, and we want remind them we’re here,” said Erin Hanas, Associate Curator of Academic Programs. “We’re tabling welcome week to make sure they know there are ways they can get involved with ICA even before we open.”


ICA Q&As: Meredith Carrington

Senior Graphic Designer Meredith Carrington sat down to answer a few questions about her work at the ICA.

What’s your role at the ICA?
I’m the gatekeeper of the visual brand for the ICA. There’s an amazing visual identity that was created by a number of folks, including the VCUarts staff and John Paolini, a VCUarts alum with Sullivan & Company. They created this really dynamic visual identity that I’m now trying to live into and decide how we’ll use. A lot of my responsibility is in print projects, but I also provide advice on signage, digital applications, and things like that. When we get into our physical space, I’ll also be helping curatorial with exhibition design and graphics. In general, I attend to all of the ICA’s visual needs.


Digital Swag: Summer in the City

Celebrate summer in Richmond with our ICA-branded digital swag!

Update your desktop and mobile devices with wallpapers featuring the ICA’s ignition color palette and the Richmond skyline—along with some notable VCU landmarks. And yes, that’s the Markel Center, three buildings from the left.

Instructions: Right click / Ctrl + click and select “Save Image As…” to download the image file.

Smart Phone v. 1 (640w x 960h) >>
Smart Phone v. 2 (720w x 1280h) >>
Tablet / E-Readers >>
Desktop  >>

Image: ICA at VCU branded digital swag, July 2017.  © ICA at VCU


Pam and Bill Royall Receive VCU’s 2017 Edward A. Wayne Medal

The Edward A. Wayne Medal is one of the highest honors awarded by VCU, and is given in recognition of extraordinary generosity and service to the university and the community. And in May of 2017, during commencement, the medal was presented to Institute for Contemporary Art supporters Pam and Bill Royall.

In her speech recognizing the recipients, Gail Hackett, Ph.D., VCU’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said of the Royalls, “Your remarkable generosity and volunteer leadership will continue to enrich the lives of our students, patients, faculty, and researchers and will positively shape Richmond business, art, and culture for years to come. In particular, your service as campaign co-chairs for the Institute for Contemporary Art has set a clear example and embodies a sense of vision and leadership worth emulating.” (more…)


Marketing Students Use the ICA for Experiential Learning

Since its inception, VCU School of Business students have worked on a myriad of different projects with the ICA, and in spring 2017, Associate Professor Jodie Ferguson, Ph.D. gave her Experiential Marketing (MKTG 430) class the opportunity to participate in some experiential learning with us. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a great relationship with the School of Business,” said ICA Marketing and Communications Specialist Maura Scanlon. “It’s been very rewarding doing these projects. The students have an opportunity to conduct research for us, research I wouldn’t typically have time to do, and they always come back with feedback that is really valuable.”

For this project, students were broken into four teams and tasked with planning and producing pop-up events to raise the ICA’s visibility on campus and to capture email addresses. The MKTG 430 students received $500 in EPIC project funding to purchase supplies for their events. (more…)

Guest Blogger Deb Sokolow: Research for an Idiosyncratic Visitor’s Guide

“In all fictions, each time a man meets diverse alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the work of the virtually impossible-to-disentangle Ts’ui Pen, the character chooses—simultaneously— all of them. He creates, thereby, ‘several futures,’ several times, which themselves proliferate and fork.”
The Garden of Forking Paths, Jorge Luis Borges

When the Institute for Contemporary Art [ICA] invited me to create an idiosyncratic visitor’s guide to the institute, I was delighted to discover Steven Holl’s design for the building was inspired by a short detective story from writer Jorge Luis Borges. As an artist, lover of detective stories and avid reader of experimental fiction, I could not have been more jazzed. (more…)


Green Guide to the Building (Part 3)

Upon completion of construction in 2017, the ICA will submit for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization committed to sustainable practices in building and construction.

State buildings in Virginia are required to consider sustainability and must pass one of the following three standards: LEED Certification at the silver level; Green Globes Ratings Systems two-globe level; or adhere to the International Green Construction Code. The ICA anticipates earning a LEED gold certification, one level beyond what is required.

Rebecca Aarons-Sydnor is the ICA’s sustainability representative from the Richmond firm, Sustainable Design Consulting (SDC). (more…)


Guest Blogger Randi Korn: Intentional Planning at the ICA

Whenever I receive an invitation to work with an arts organization in my home state (I live and work in Alexandria), it is nearly impossible to turn down. I am so excited about having a new contemporary arts organization close by, that when longtime colleague Johanna Plummer, Curator of Education and Engagement, called to gauge my interest in helping her and Director Lisa Freiman develop a plan for the ICA, I was delighted. Johanna and I have worked together before, so she knows that I use Intentional Planning strategies to facilitate inclusive workshops to co-create an Impact Framework. I am grateful to the ICA’s staff for this amazing opportunity. This summer, the ICA team of talented museum professionals, as well as advisory members, university professors and administrators, and members of the Richmond arts community worked together to begin the process.

Intentional Planning is a contemporary approach to traditional strategic planning. Strategic planning focuses on an organization’s mission statement, which usually includes verbs such as “educate,” “inspire,” and sets out to create actions that the organization will take. Taking this a step further, Intentional Planning focuses on impact—the result of the organization on its audiences. (more…)


Impact Planning: Letter from Lisa Freiman and Johanna Plummer

Dear ICA Supporters and Friends,

After many months of intensive conversations, we are thrilled to share our new mission and impact statements with you:

MISSION: (what the ICA will do)
The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University presents the art of our time and provides an open forum for dialogue and collaboration across the region and throughout the world. 

IMPACT: (the result of the ICA on audiences)
Participants respect the ICA as a public resource and value the transformative power of art and artists.

The Impact Planning Framework is intended as a living document. It includes our passions, distinct qualities, target audiences, and outcomes for those audiences, and it is aligned with VCU’s Quest for Distinction strategic plan goals. These two pages are the result of many hours of workshopping, listening, wordsmithing, and editing. Our work continues as we develop indicators and targets for each outcome and then make it all real this fall. (more…)


Inaugural Exhibition, Declaration, Will Examine Art’s Crucial Role in the World Today and Will Premiere Many New Commissions and Works

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will unveil the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), a new, non-collecting contemporary art institution designed by Steven Holl Architects in partnership with BCWH Architects in Spring 2018. 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 and commissions by artists from Richmond and around the globe, “Declaration” will examine themes of protest, social justice, connection, and creative community.



Behind the Scenes: Building Interdisciplinary Relationships

Erin Hanas, associate curator of academic programs, shares her goals for coordinating faculty and student engagement.

1. What is a typical day for you and/or your team?  

Planning meetings and conversations — often related to programming ideas we are developing — but every day brings something new and different and creatively challenging. This ranges from navigating VCU administration to talking with colleagues at other institutions about their programming and campus outreach efforts. I am constantly considering what types of academic programs and initiatives would best serve our VCU audiences.

2. What projects are you focusing on leading up to the ICA’s opening?

Right now, I am focused on campus outreach and building relationships with members of the VCU community. (more…)

March on Monument 2017

Marching on Monument

Today we join Richmond’s March on Monument, and we stand, in solidarity with those who believe in the power of equality and justice. As we march past monuments to Confederate soldiers, I am reminded that Richmond is also a place where creative expression and alternative voices reveal a history of pride in our differences and a desire to continually reform.

In anticipation of the presidential inauguration and the opening of VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art, we ask ourselves how the ICA can best serve our community both locally and globally in a time of civic unrest. In doing so, the ICA stands committed to being a space that promotes social equity, racial justice, and open dialogue through the arts. We stand together with the cultural institutions, artists, curators and critics around the world that share this commitment.

Today we proclaim our rights to preserve the very multicolored fabrics that make us a nation. In these charged times, we march together to produce more images of solidarity and hope for future generations to come. We march today, will join the Women’s March on January 21 in Washington D.C., and every day until we reach a tomorrow where we truly have a more perfect union. #RVA #MarchonMonument #ICA2017 #ICAVCU #Bootsontheground

— Lisa Freiman, Director


Winter 2017 Audience Survey

Please complete the following survey so that we may better understand our audience’s preferences for receiving information in the digital sphere.

All responses are strictly confidential and will only be used to inform the communications strategy for the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Thank you for your support.

Launch Survey >>

Inventing ICA: Process and Transparency

Our goal is to bring transparency to the process of creativity in all its facets — from architecture to technology and from planning to programming. As we onboard a growing team that will make the ICA a reality, we aim to bring a number of thought leaders to Richmond to discuss topics integral to our development and to share their expertise with our audiences.

Earlier this year we launched the lecture series, “Inventing ICA,” with a focus on technology and innovation. We began with a talk on big data presented by Robert Stein, Chief Program Officer at the American Alliance of Museums and former Deputy Director of the Dallas Museum of Art, which examined how cultural institutions can use information to become more agile and responsive. Stein shared insights from a program at the Dallas Museum of Art that provided examples of how museums can collect and analyze data to illuminate their work and enhance their impact on visitors. (more…)

Wrapping the ICA’s Headquarters

Inspired by a commitment to creativity, our staff decided earlier this year that the façade of the ICA’s temporary headquarters at 818 West Broad Street should undergo a bold, vivid makeover. Based on the ICA’s brand identity, a once stark white brick storefront now features a bright color palette of red, pink, and purple. Using a 3M brick adhesive vinyl, the front exterior was wrapped from top to bottom with matching laminate for doors and windows. Mounted high above, the ICA’s logo is presented in custom-fabricated white channel letters. Deceptively simple during the day, the logo is illuminated in the evenings for an equally powerful effect. (more…)

A Forum of Ideas — A Collaborative Program with VCUarts Interior Design

This past spring, 38 undergraduate and 8 graduate VCU interior design students were given the opportunity to take their studies beyond the studio and into the real world. In a joint collaboration between ICA staff, School of the Arts Interior Design (IDES) faculty, and BCWH Architecture colleagues, students were asked to examine design challenges presented by the ICA’s forum, a space defined by a 36-foot ceiling, a glass facade, a curving wall, and a sweeping grand staircase.  (more…)

Digital Wallpapers — Design Studies for the ICA

In light of our recent collaboration with VCUarts Interior Design and BCWH Architects, we’re sharing select works by participating VCUarts interior design students as digital wallpapers for your desktop and mobile devices.

Instructions: Right click/Ctrl + click and select “Save Image As…” to download the image file.

Desktop (horizontal):
An Liu, Forum Interior, digital sketch >>
Lucy Dabney, Forum Interior, mixed media sketch >>
Heather Overby, Exterior (Pine Street View), watercolor sketch >>

Mobile (vertical):
An Liu, Forum Interior, digital sketch >>
An Liu, Floorplan Visualization, watercolor sketch >>
Heather Overby, Exterior (Pine Street View), watercolor sketch >>


Exhibition: A Forum of Ideas (Now through November 20, 2016)
Video: A Forum of Ideas

Images: An Liu, Forum Interior (digital sketch), 2016 / Lucy Dabney, Forum Interior (mixed media sketch), 2016 / Heather Overby, Pine Street Exterior View (watercolor sketch), 2016

The ICA Auditorium

As construction crews removed the scaffolding and support systems around the exterior of the Markel Center last summer, the sloping plane that supports the auditorium seating was revealed. In keeping with the ICA’s mission to be ever-changing, Steven Holl Architects designed the auditorium to be a flexible and dynamic space that can accommodate the broadest possible range of contemporary performance art and programming needs. (more…)


Behind the Scenes: Building a Donor Base for a New Institution

Carol Anne Baker LaJoie, director of development, shares the challenges and rewards of fundraising — from the potential to the planning — for a new art institution.

  1. What is your favorite aspect of fundraising for the ICA?

Being with donors, hands down. I have a deep belief in the power of philanthropy because I’ve seen it in action. Spending time learning about what interests and motivates the generosity of our donors is incredibly rewarding. Our donors are amazing, they’re wonderful to talk with and listen to, and I never stop learning from them. It’s so much fun to share with them what we have in store at the ICA. When their passions align with our mission, it’s magical.  (more…)

Market Research: Profiling the ICA’s Audience

Over the summer, we teamed up with two VCU graduates to research the ICA’s followers to develop audience profiles and understand their motivations. Collaboratively managed by Joseph Baumgardner (BS Marketing ’16) and Christian Marchant (BS Creative Advertising ’15), the project began with a survey developed to identify those most likely to support and engage with the ICA.  The survey was distributed via social media and e-mail to individuals who follow the ICA’s Facebook page and have subscribed to our e-newsletter. Questions ranged from general demographics to the number of museum visits per year and rankings for a list of leisure activities.

The results identified 4 key audiences: the VCU artistic family, campus connoisseurs, Richmond art and cultural supporters, and Richmond art connoisseurs.  While all of them share a common love of art, fun, and challenging ideas, the groups differ in their level of cultural engagement and social activity.  Following are descriptions of each profile: