Ibrahim Ahmed's \"Does Anybody Leave Heaven?\"
Ibrahim Ahmed's "Does Anybody Leave Heaven?" (2019), courtesy of the artist.

ICA at VCU celebrates third anniversary, announces spring and summer exhibitions and programs

Season features solo exhibitions with new commissions and public programs that include collaboration, creation and mutual learning.

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To commemorate its third anniversary on April 12, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University is celebrating throughout the month of April, culminating in a public virtual event, Lunch & Launch, on Friday, April 30 at noon. 

The event features Dominic Asmall Willsdon, executive director of the ICA, along with special guests Carmenita Higginbotham, dean of VCU School of the Arts; Chioke I’Anson, director of community podcasting at the ICA; and Miguel López, writer and curator. They will reflect on the last three years, introduce future projects and launch the ICA’s new membership program, which focuses on community and accessibility. The new program includes free membership to unite community members not by amounts donated, but by values shared: curiosity, creativity, cultural awareness, diverse perspectives and community engagement. The public is also invited to stop by the ICA to pick up a swag bag and treat on April 30.

The ICA is highlighting memories of its first three years this month on Instagram (@icavcu). Additionally, for every contribution of $50 or more toward the ICA during the month of April, the ICA will donate a lunch to a teacher at Carver Elementary School for Teacher Appreciation Week in May.

This spring and summer, the ICA will feature new commissions, museum debuts and a robust slate of virtual programs that give audiences unprecedented access to art, artists, research and creation. The season includes the first solo museum exhibition of work by Cairo-based artist Ibrahim Ahmed and the first solo U.S. museum exhibition by South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape, composed entirely of new site-responsive commissions.

Throughout the spring and summer, the ICA also will expand on its Public Study and VPM + ICA Community Media Center initiatives with new programs that invite the public to share their own stories, perspectives and ideas. 

“This season, we’re bringing to Richmond creative voices from around the world whose projects each have something powerful to say about our current context, both on a local and global level,” Willsdon said. “As we continue to grow our Public Study offerings, we hope to bring our audiences into closer contact with these artists and their work, allowing them to experience and contribute to ICA programming in more active, intimate ways.” 

Upcoming exhibitions highlight new and recent work by a global group of contemporary artists who — through a range of media and perspectives — explore topics including identity and place; the movement of people, both voluntary and forced; and the complex legacies of history, memory and trauma. In addition to ongoing presentations of work by Harold Mendez and Kandis Williams, the season also includes the debut of two major solo exhibitions:

  • “Ibrahim Ahmed: It Will Always Come Back to You” (July 30 to Nov. 28), a selection of textile-based sculpture, painting and photo collages produced by Ahmed since 2013, delving into themes related to colonization, power structures, cultural interactions and the fluidity of identity. The exhibition also will feature a large ICA-commissioned sculpture.
  • “Dineo Seshee Bopape: Ile aye, moya, là, ndokh ... harmonic conversations … mm” (late summer), an exhibition of ICA-commissioned video, sculpture and installation by Bopape that explores histories of trauma, memory and resistance across four sites connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade: Richmond, New Orleans, Senegal and Ghana. 

Last summer, the ICA launched Public Study, a slate of in-person and digital programs that invites the public to engage with art and research in an open-ended and collaborative way. In the coming months, the ICA will debut “Public Annotations,” the newest Public Study program in which audiences collaboratively read, edit and respond to open-access PDFs of key texts related to upcoming exhibitions.

Throughout the spring and summer, the ICA also will be collaborating with artists on two major projects centered around music and publishing. The first, “Doing Language,” is a multipart project that upends traditional notions of publishing by highlighting the work of nine artists whose practices engage with language in various — and often unconventional — ways: Justin Allen, Chloë Bass, Bryan Castro, Riley Hooker, Joselia Rebekah Hughes, MA.MOYO aka Belinda Zhawi, Massa Lemu, Malcolm Peacock and agustine zegers.

The second project is “Elevator Pitch,” a web-based micro-concert music series hosted in the ICA’s one-of-a-kind elevator, a gift of the Saunders Family Foundation. The series will focus on music of the African diaspora including indigenous sound, jazz, hip-hop, rock and soul, and early episodes will feature local and regional musicians. Pending COVID-19 restrictions, the ICA will begin recording sessions in the coming months and premiering episodes via YouTube in the late summer. 

For more information, or to register to attend an upcoming program, visit icavcu.org/.