VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art underway

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Virginia Commonwealth University on Tuesday broke ground on the Markel Center, the Steven Holl Architects-designed building that will house VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art.

Anticipated to open in 2016, the ICA will be dedicated to contemporary visual art, design music, performance and film by nationally and internationally recognized artists. The non-collecting institution will enhance VCU and its renowned School of the Arts, while introducing a vibrant destination for contemporary art to the region.

“This beautiful facility is truly a testament to the spirit of the university with the No. 1 School of the Arts, thanks to my faculty colleagues,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Things don’t happen because of people like me, they happen because of your faculty colleagues.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that we have the No. 1 ranked medical center as well in Virginia. In so many ways, this project begins to connect the two and it makes it a source of great pride for me.

Located at one of the most prominent intersections in Richmond — the corner of Belvedere and Broad streets — and adjacent to several historic neighborhoods, the ICA will link VCU’s two campuses and crown Richmond’s Downtown Arts District.

The university expects the institute to be a linchpin in the history of Richmond and in the history of Broad Street, which presents tremendous possibilities, Rao said.

The actual Markel Center building — named in honor of the Markel Corp. — will itself be a piece of art.

“An integral part of [our] vision was to decide that the architecture of this building should be a piece of art all in and of itself,” said Steve Markel, chairman and CEO of Markel and co-chair of the campaign committee. “And the selection of Steven Holl [and his team] to build this building is maybe the best decision that we possibly could have made.

“When that structure exists on this site, it will be an icon for the city of Richmond. It will be something that VCU and Richmond are really known for around the world.

The groundbreaking included university leadership, donors, architects, students and community leaders. VCUarts alumnus Ed Trask led a performance that creatively branded the future site of the ICA.

“We decided that we needed to have paint involved somehow in marking this really important occasion,” said ICA Director Lisa Freiman. From the top of two scissor-lifts, leaders of the Markel Corp. emptied numerous gallons of paint in red, fuchsia and purple — the ICA logo colors. Afterward, Trask pulled up a giant template to reveal the monumental bright letters spelling out ICA.

For the finale, VCUarts Dean Joe Seipel — wearing a hard hat and a safety vest — had the honor of actually breaking the ground with the use of a giant backhoe.


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