Stephanie Smith.

Stephanie Smith named chief curator of new Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU

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The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University has announced the appointment of Stephanie Smith as its chief curator. The new, non-collecting contemporary art institution will open in fall 2017.

The chief curator is a new position in which Smith will manage the expanding curatorial team and work closely with ICA Director Lisa Freiman and the curator of education, Johanna Plummer, to realize and demonstrate the ICA’s artistic vision. Smith is currently the chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and will assume her position at the ICA this November.

Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA will be a significant new cultural resource for Richmond and VCU, in direct dialogue with VCU School of the Arts, the No. 1 ranked public school of art and design in the United States. The ICA’s flexible programming spaces allow the institution to be simultaneously part exhibition and performance space, part lab and incubator. Its fluid design acknowledges the increasing lack of barriers between different media and practices, mirroring VCU’s interdisciplinary approach. The ICA will offer a vital new dimension to a national research university and contribute to a national and international dialogue.

The $41-million, three-story building is located at Richmond’s historic Belvidere and Broad intersection, one of the city’s most trafficked junctures directly off Interstate 95. The ICA provides a striking new gateway for Richmond, with dual entrances opening to the city’s art district on one side and VCU’s Monroe Park campus on the other. With nearly 41,000 square feet of flexible space, including an inviting 33-foot high central forum, the ICA will present the work of both emerging and established contemporary artists. It will feature a dynamic slate of changing exhibitions, performances, films, and interdisciplinary programs, and host both spontaneous art encounters and planned events.

“I am eager to open the doors of the ICA’s Markel Center to the world next fall, and I am thrilled for Stephanie to join our growing team,” Freiman said. “With her extensive leadership experience in university and contemporary art museums, she is the ideal addition to the ICA, and will greatly help the institution inspire new ways of thinking, encourage discourse and foster collaboration. At the same time, Steven Holl Architects’ design captures our global vision, and is the perfect home for the robust roster of exhibitions and programs being developed by our curatorial team. We look forward to becoming a new destination for the arts in Richmond for students, faculty and the broader arts community.”

I’m delighted to join the exceptional staff at the Institute for Contemporary Art.

“I’m delighted to join the exceptional staff at the Institute for Contemporary Art,” Smith said. “The opportunity to help launch a new contemporary art institution is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I look forward to creating a dynamic curatorial program that engages the pressing issues of our times through great art and ideas. We’re going to build a program that reflects our passions and our values, a program that is flexible, playful, rigorous and generous. I’ve learned a great deal during my time at the Art Gallery of Ontario and in Toronto, and I’m excited to apply this in my future work at the ICA — at an urban research university that is putting contemporary art front and center. I can’t wait to work with Lisa and the ICA team to open this vital new resource for VCU, Richmond, and the international art world.”


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