Construction of Art Institute finally underway

Sarah King
News Editor

For months, the lot on the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets has remained vacant except for the sign designating it as the future home of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU. Last week, nearly 350 people gathered on that lot as VCUarts Dean Joe Seipel broke ground for the ICA.

The ICA will be a non-collecting institution, meaning there will be no permanent collection. It will display cutting-edge and experimental exhibitions, performances, films and programs is set to open in 2016, said Carrie Culpepper, the ICA public relations manager. Culpepper said that construction is expected to take two years, although the idea for the museum was born nearly 15 years ago under former VCUarts Dean Rick Toscan.

The $35 million endeavor is sponsored through donations, and the building itself was designed by Steven Holl, who has been internationally recognized and was named America’s Best Architect by Time Magazine.

“The ICA is going to be a window into the world of contemporary art, design, and performance and as such it will give students opportunities to see new things they wouldn’t normally be able to see unless they traveled to major cities in the US and overseas,” said ICA Director Lisa Freiman.

The building itself will house 40,000 square feet of flexible space with two entrances into the 33-foot-high forum. The museum will also host a 250-seat auditorium, gift shop, café, sculpture garden and reflecting pool as well as four main galleries. The ICA is working to earn LEED certification, which ensures lower operating costs and less environmental impact.

“The ICA will be a non-collecting institution focused on presenting a fresh slate of changing, experimental exhibitions, performances, films and programs – both inside and outside the museum – that examine the big issues of our time,” Culpepper said.

VCU and the ICA’s major stakeholders have been in alignment about moving the project forward and getting it opened, said Freiman. She added that raising money is always challenging, but even with that, the project has seen great success because the community understands that the ICA is important not only for VCU, but for the city of Richmond.

VCU president Michael Rao said in a press release that the university expects the institute to be a linchpin in the history of Richmond and in Broad Street.

“The project’s completion is the ICA’s true beginning. I’m looking forward to opening the doors and welcoming people from all walks of life who want to be challenged, inspired, and pushed to think critically and experience new things,” Freiman said.

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