Retired VCUarts dean appointed as new ICA Director

Courtesy of VCUarts.
Photo courtesy of VCUarts.

Retired VCUarts Dean Joe Seipel will serve as Interim Director of the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) following Lisa Freiman stepping down from the position earlier this month.

The ICA is set to open on April 21. Seipel said he will likely continue to hold the position of interim director until around April, pending the results of a national search to find a permanent director.

Seipel was involved with the early plans for the ICA, which originated as a renovation of The Anderson Gallery, a space currently dedicated to student exhibitions.

“This has been just a dream of mine, to see this come to fruition,” Seipel said. “It’s an evolution. Fifteen years ago, who would have ever thought we had this world-class building here.”

After a few “quieter” years when little was happening to develop the ICA, Seipel made the ICA a priority when he became dean of VCUarts, as VCU was the only top-ranked art school without an art museum.

More than 1,000 individual pieces make up the inaugural exhibition, “Declaration,” which consists of 55 works — many of the works are complex with a number of smaller parts. Thirty artists contributed to “Declaration,” many of which are nationally and internationally significant.

No changes will be made to “Declaration” as a result of Seipel’s appointment.

“The idea now that young people can come see this artwork and understand that it is possible for them to reach these kinds of benchmarks in their career is going to be so important,” Seipel said.

“Declaration” will explore themes of connection, social justice, protest and creative community. Seipel said he hopes the ICA will serve as a “gathering point” where individuals can challenge one another and discuss ideas presented in the artwork.

The ICA’s High School Teacher Advisory Group was formed to connect with the education community — it consists of 23 educators from the City of Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield Counties.

“For a young student to come here and see this artwork for the first time, 14-year-old or 15-year-old or 12-year-old, it’s going to be a great experience for them,” Seipel said. “We want to make sure that we’re able to give them the kind of direction and help them understand what is being said in the artwork.”

Numerous outreach programs are scheduled to begin in May, including Coffee and Conversations, where attendees can RSVP to meet with a staff member and learn more about the ICA. Tours of differing lengths and types will also be available, among other programs.

“When we designed this, and I was pretty directly involved in choosing the architect and the initial design of this place, it was really important to us that there was no front and no back to this building,” Seipel said. “There’s a doorway to Broad Street, there’s a doorway to the university and that’s a metaphor for how we expect to work with the community.”

Georgia Geen Spectrum Editor 

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