The Institute for Contemporary Art, commonly referred to as the ICA, is a development on the VCU campus that is near completion. While most students are aware of the construction site that’s been underway for almost four years, many don’t know about the building that is to come and what it will offer. Listed below are six things you will need to know about the ICA at VCU before it opens.


The new ICA building has been in the works for nearly seven years; Steven Holl was hired as the architect of the VCU building in 2011. Construction officially began on the project in 2014 and has since experienced a few delays. The opening date has been pushed back several times, but the ICA has strongly affirmed that the building will open in April of 2018. It is located on the corner of W. Broad Street and Belvidere Street, which is fairly central to the VCU campus.



The ICA building boasts more than 40,o00 square feet of space indoors and features an outdoor garden (called the “Thinking Space”) designed by the architect of the building. On the first floor, there will be a large cafe and a gallery in a very ‘fluid space’, as well as a 240-person auditorium for films, lectures, and presentations. The second floor offers two more gallery branches and spaces for hands-on engagement called learning labs. Another gallery and some administrative space will be on the third floor. Both the second and third floor will both have access to public, outdoor terraces (of which there are four across the entire building).


3.Free Admission

The emphasis of the ICA is not on profit. Instead, it focuses on providing a space for the students of VCU and the people of Richmond to come together and hold open, reflective dialogue about contemporary art. For that reason, admission to the ICA will be free to not only VCU students, the public as well. This fuses well with VCU‘s tendency of cross-disciplinary learning/instructing, as the ICA will serve as a great forum for people of all backgrounds to collaborate in an artistic setting.


4.Diverse Collection

VCU is a school that prides itself on its diversity, so students can expect that the the ICA will feature art from an assortment of people with different cultural backgrounds. The opening exhibit features approximately 30 artists from Richmond and all over the world. Each displayed artist has a unique perspective that, when combined in a gallery with other artists, sparks conversation with one another. Beyond cultural diversity, the institute provides an array of different media for viewing in each gallery; plans include traditional painting, film, digital media art, and much more.


5.Artistic Commentary

One of the first collections at the ICA will make a strong statement as to the mission of the institution. Declaration, the inaugural exhibit, is meant to publicize the ICA’s dedication to providing an open, safe space for artists to express their commentary on the world. Influential curators of this exhibit want to articulate that Declaration will be investigating and addressing global concerns, as well as concerns within the Richmond and VCU community. Patrons of the ICA’s Declaration exhibit can expect to see pieces that discuss gender barriers, racial justice, the interaction of humans and the natural environment, and various other topics that are important in political and social conversation today.


6.Connection to VCUArts

VCU anticipates that the ICA will become a frequented spot for the students, faculty, and staff of VCUArts. The assorted galleries and workspaces will be great for instructors to incorporate into their lessons. Art Foundations students working towards degrees in more contemporary areas will appreciate the increased exposure to modern art. The ICA has already confirmed that galleries may include pieces by VCU faculty and alumni, which drives home the sense of community in this institution.


Due to the ever-changing nature of art institutes, the ICA is bound to undergo several changes over the course of its operation. However, its mission should remain the same: to provide Richmond with an arena for global, artistic conversation. Students of VCU, whether they are affiliated with the School of the Arts or not, should consider visiting the ICA once it opens its doors just to experience something eccentric and out-of-the-ordinary.


Chandler Girman

Mass Communications major at Virginia Commonwealth University Dallas, Richmond, Philadelphia

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