Michael Lease is the Director of Facilities, Installation, and Exhibition Design for the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. Currently Lease is overseeing the development of crucial security and facilities protocols in preparation for the ICA opening, as well as establishing high standards for all building operations. In conjunction with the Director and curatorial and education teams, he is helping develop plans to use the ICA as a research and teaching tool for students and interns.
Before joining the ICA, he was the Head of Exhibitions and Design at VCU’s Anderson Gallery, where he undertook the design and coordination of numerous individual and group exhibitions. Before its closing, the Anderson Gallery was the exhibition venue for VCU’s top-ranked School of the Arts. In addition to shows by prominent contemporary artists, the gallery’s rigorous schedule included exhibitions of renowned VCU Arts faculty, including Richard Carlyon, Myron Helfgott, Ester Partejas, Jack Wax, and Bohyun Yoon. At the Anderson Gallery, Lease worked closely with national and international artists, including Janine Antoni, Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Sarah Sze, and Brian Ulrich, on ambitious and often site-specific exhibitions. In 2010, Lease worked with Swiss artist Pipillotti Rist’s studio to mount the first U.S. showing of Gravity Be My Friend, an immersive installation that included an intricate sculptural carpet platform for viewing an organically shaped overhead projection that was integrated into the gallery’s 19th and 20th century architecture. For the 2015 exhibition Forecast, he worked with San Francisco-based artist Amy Balkin to develop a two-dimensional version of her work, A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting, which addresses the effects of climate change across the globe.
In addition to his work as an exhibition designer, Lease is an artist and educator working to engage various Richmond communities, through collaborative projects and exhibitions, to reveal and retain the complex and important stories of these communities. Since 2009, he has been a member of 1708 Gallery’s Board of Directors, serving as president in 2013, and is a founder and board member of Milk River Arts, a new not-for-profit organization that provides career support for artists with special needs.