Where Gumbo Was #479
The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is Richmond’s first cultural institution dedicated to contemporary art. ProfessorAbe and PortMorseby correctly identified it from the clues.
Opened in 2018 at the Univeristy's Markel Center, the ICA is a non-collecting institution that showcases an ever-changing slate of exhibitions, performances, films, and special programs.
The 40,000+ square foot building was designed by Steven Holl, named by Time magazine as America’s best architect. It has won numerous architecture awards and received LEED-Gold certification for enabling an environmentally and socially responsible environment.
The outdoor backyard garden is planted with gingko trees (one of the most ancient species) and includes a large reflecting pond which shapes the sense of this garden as a “thinking field.”
VCU is aleading school of arts and design, with more than 31,000 students in 222 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences, and humanities.
The ICA building includes a research library, café, and lounge area in addition to the four flexible galleries. VCU's website describes its mission: "The Institute for Contemporary Art ... presents the art of our time, which can often confront difficult themes and raise sensitive subject matter that may be troubling for some audiences.”
During my visit, Gallery 1 was closed and being prepared for another exhibit, but the other three galleries were showing exhibits.
Remember Our Stars and Cecilia
In Galleries 2 & 3: Giddeon Appah: Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes. His works are of Ghanaian popular culture from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. The ROXY 2 work is a memory of the old Roxy Cinema in the capital city of Accra. Two Men Having a Smoke, Bliss II, Hyped Teen, Remember Our Stars, Cecilia, White Castle, and more were on display. From top: White Castle, Hyped Teen, Bliss II, Roxy
Gallery 4: Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste: Set It Off. This was an unusual exhibit, something like I had never seen/experienced before. The two darkened cubes have entrance curtains where you embark into a sound experience. Inside you are bombarded by sonic frequencies just below the human audibility which are to be “deeply felt.”
The ceiling fixture that lets you 'set it off'
The subwoofers emanate pulses and vibrations. I sadly admit that I entered but did not initiate the Set It Off experience.
Even the elevator had artwork.
The ICA is located at 601 West Broad Street, Richmond, on the Monroe Park Campus of VCU. The adjacent parking lot was closed while I was visiting, but street parking was easy, although many of the locations were reserved or time-restricted. Tuesday through Sunday hours are 10am until 5pm, with late hours until 9PM on Fridays.
The exhibits can be seen in approximately two hours depending on you art interests. Admission is free.Volunteers are seated at each gallery for your questions.