VCU appoints director for new Institute for Contemporary Art

Lisa Freiman, Ph.D., is internationally recognized curator and leader in contemporary art

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Virginia Commonwealth University today announced the appointment of Lisa Freiman, Ph.D., currently the senior curator and chair of the contemporary art department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, as inaugural director of the new VCU Institute for Contemporary Art.

In addition to her role as director of the ICA, Freiman, who begins July 1, also will be a professor in VCU’s acclaimed School of the Arts.

“Lisa is a respected curator and scholar whose innovative programs extend well beyond the walls of the museum and into the community,” said Beverly J. Warren, Ed.D., Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at VCU. “Her work in Indianapolis exemplifies how a smart, dynamic program can energize a city and increase its engagement with contemporary art. Lisa’s creativity and her visionary leadership will be essential in bringing the ICA to life and ensuring that it plays a vibrant role in both the campus community and the broader international art world.”

The ICA, anticipated to open in 2015, will be a combination exhibition and performance space, laboratory and incubator featuring a series of flexible programming spaces for the presentation of visual art, theater, music, dance and film by nationally and internationally recognized artists in a building designed by Steven Holl Architects. It will be a non-collecting institution designed to accommodate the increasing lack of barriers among different media and practices, mirroring the cross-disciplinary approach at the VCU School of the Arts.

Freiman is an internationally recognized curator and leader in the contemporary art field. She transformed the experience of contemporary art during her 10 years in Indianapolis, creating a dynamic and widely renowned contemporary art program that has become an influential model for encyclopedic museums as they engage with the art of our time.

Actively seeking out the works of emerging and established international artists, Freiman has provided a platform to support artists’ work through major traveling exhibitions, commissions, acquisitions, and publications. During her tenure, Freiman also helped raise more than $10 million to support contemporary exhibitions, programs, collection development, scholarship and other initiatives at the IMA.

“We are so fortunate to have found an ICA director who has such deep and far-ranging experience in contemporary art and a clear commitment to scholarship,” said Joseph Seipel, dean, VCU School of the Arts. “Lisa brings a wealth of ideas and energy to both the ICA and VCUarts and we know the students, staff and faculty will benefit greatly from her leadership and insight.”

In 2011, Freiman served as commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion in the 54th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, presenting six newly commissioned, site-responsive works by Puerto Rico-based artists Allora & Calzadilla, the first collaborative to be presented in the U.S. Pavilion. Under Freiman’s vision and direction, the IMA opened 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park to international critical acclaim in June 2010.

Freiman has published extensively on contemporary art, including books on Amy Cutler, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Type A, Allora & Calzadilla and Aziz and Cucher.

“I am honored to have been selected to serve as the first director of VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art,” Freiman said.  “VCU has established itself as a dynamic and diverse center for contemporary practices and I look forward to working with the university’s leadership, faculty, students and patrons to realize the bold vision that they have put forth to build a leading center for contemporary art.”

Prior to joining IMA, Freiman worked as assistant professor of art history, theory and criticism at the University of Georgia and served in the curatorial department of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in modern and contemporary art history from Emory University and has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Oberlin College.