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PHOTOS: VCU Institute for Contemporary Art stuns visually, tackles “important but difficult” topics within

With an inaugural exhibit that challenges the city’s Confederate history and racial divide, Virginia Commonwealth University opens its Institute for Contemporary Art next week, drawing local and international attention alike.

RVAHub Staff

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By Chelsea Jackson, Siona Peterous, and Trevor Dickerson

With an inaugural exhibit that challenges the city’s Confederate history and racial divide, Virginia Commonwealth University will open its Institute for Contemporary Art next week, and it’s generating excitement not only in Richmond but also in national and international art communities.

The 41,000-square-feet Markel Center, where the ICA is housed, cost $41 million and sits at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets–the city’s busiest intersection, with an estimated 60,000 cars passing by every day. Supporters say the facility will be transformational to Richmond, offering striking architectural visuals on the exterior and exhibits inside ranging from the thought-provoking to the downright provocative.

The city’s only stand-alone gallery of contemporary art, which will open to the public next Saturday, April 21st, sits between VCU’s Monroe Park Campus and the historic Jackson Ward community–a point that for decades was the divide between black Richmond and white Richmond.

Joe Seipel, the interim director of the ICA (and former dean of the VCU School of the Arts who returned from retirement to assume the role), said the idea for the project has been around for decades. Seipel and the ICA team say they have worked to ensure that everyone feels welcome to come enjoy the art gallery, a goal he hopes to accomplish by keeping admission free.

Steven Holl, Architect

During a press preview Thursday, New York-based architect Steven Holl said he looked to Richmond’s deep and complicated history for inspiration and incorporated certain aspects to bridge a gap between the growing presence of VCU and the larger Richmond community. Holl’s firm, known for specializing in educational and cultural projects, was chosen from more than 60 that submitted proposals for the building.

“This may be one of my favorite buildings I’ve [worked on] because it makes an urban statement, because there is a relationship between the campus and the city, and it also is a statement on the concept of time,” Holl said. Exploring the cavernous building, it quickly becomes apparent how much thought the renown architect put into every square foot of the institute. Holl says some of his favorite features of the facility are the specially-designed auditorium with a state-of-the-art audiovisual system and a steeply-pitched stadium seating layout as well as the elevator, which is large enough to serve both visitors and artwork and features intricately-detailed walls that take inspiration from the elongated slate in the institute’s outdoor garden.

The “forking” design of the building pays homage to a former train station that once sat on the site. Each of the four galleries intersects and branches out from the overall structure, much like the train tracks at Broad and Belvidere once did.

The relationship among time, space and race relation was a strong influence on the ICA’s opening exhibit, “Declaration,” said the institute’s chief curator, Stephanie Smith. She conceived the idea with Lisa Freiman, Seipel’s predecessor.

Stephanie Smith, Curator

“After the 2016 presidential elections, myself and Lisa Freiman decided to reshape the ICA’s inaugural exhibition given the climate of our country,” Smith said. “We were inspired to create a project that we would speak and give a platform to a diverse group of artists whose works reflect currents in contemporary arts but also catalyze change, convene people across the divide and to speak to important but often difficult topics that are relevant here as well as our nation more broadly.”

Freiman abruptly stepped down as the institute’s director in January after five years of overseeing the planning phases of the project. In a press release at the time, Freiman stated it was time for her to resume other projects she had put on hold. Despite her absence, Smith continued with the vision that created “Declaration.”

The exhibit includes projects from more than 30 artists, many of whom were commissioned by the ICA and whose work speaks to social issues of the environment, gender inequality, race, and sexuality. “Declaration” features a range of mixed media platforms – from audio and film to painting and graphic design.

Expanding on one of his previous exhibits, Paul Rucker, the ICA’s artist in residence, created “Storm in The Time of Shelter” for the ICA. It features Ku Klux Klan robes in urban and contemporary fashions. The life-size figurines wear KKK robes made of colorful fabrics such as African prints and various shades of camouflage.

On the opposite end of the first floor is a massive wall featuring a series of individual screen prints. The piece is the work of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and was created with the collaboration of local barbershops and salons. Each print is a quote from a conversation that Kennedy overheard while in the shops, capturing the role these spaces play in the city’s black neighborhoods.

The diversity of “Declaration” reflects VCU President Michael Rao’s hope that the ICA will make the city an international destination.

“We hope to become through VCUs Institute of Contemporary Art a world-class cultural hub,” Rao said. He said the ICA will help “advance the arts and invoke human senses like they have never been invoked before.”

Editor’s Note: VCU Capital News Service reporters contributed to this report.

     

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1708 Gallery’s InLight Richmond Planned for November

The 13th annual InLight Richmond will take place from November 12th – 16th, 2020 at sites across Richmond and will address the paired themes of Safety and Accountability.

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1708 Gallery is pleased to announce that its 13th annual InLight Richmond will take place from November 12th – 16th, 2020 at sites across Richmond and will address the paired themes of Safety and Accountability.

InLight is a public exhibition of contemporary light-based artworks—multimedia and interactive projects, video, projection, sculpture, installation, performance, community-based work, digital and virtual projects—and has historically taken place in a singular location each November. Past sites include Chimborazo Park, the streets, facades and alleyways of the downtown Arts District and the sculpture garden and grounds of the VMFA.

In response to COVID-19, InLight’s multi-site platform will allow for socially distanced and virtual viewing. Further inspired by the ongoing community dialogues surrounding the unjust and inequitable treatment of Black lives and by Richmond’s coming together in support and aid during these crises, this year is focused on Safety and Accountability.

1708 invites artists, community groups, and stewards of spaces in Richmond to propose projects that can illuminate issues of Safety and Accountability. We seek proposals that respond to what these key terms mean spatially, historically, socially, and politically. We invite proposals that demonstrate profound consideration for designated sites and their communities.

For more details about InLight 2020 and to submit an entry, visit 1708gallery.org.

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VMFA to exhibit “Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities” beginning July 4th

The exhibition features nearly 300 objects, mostly from underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion.

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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has announced the East Coast premiere of Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities.

The exhibition features nearly 300 objects, mostly from underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion. Sunken Cities is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to experience the grandeur and complexity of Ptolemaic Egypt, one of the wealthiest, most powerful and influential kingdoms of the ancient Mediterranean.

The exhibition was curated by Franck Goddio, the director of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and organized for VMFA by Dr. Peter Schertz, VMFA’s Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art. Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities will open at the museum on July 4, 2020.

The exhibition highlights ancient artifacts retrieved from Aboukier Bay off the coast of Egypt by a team of underwater archaeologists led by Goddio. In addition to some 250 works recovered by IEASM, 40 additional works from museums in Egypt help tell the story of Ptolemaic Egypt and one of its most important cults, the annual celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique experience to our visitors,” said VMFA Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “VMFA brings the world to Richmond, and this exhibition explores the fascinating history of two lost cities of ancient Egypt. This is the last time this groundbreaking exhibition will be on view in North America, and we hope to attract a wide range of visitors.”

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities is presented by Dominion Energy. “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with VMFA through this exciting exhibition,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, President of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Promoting cultural diversity and community vitality is an important goal for us, and we are proud to help bring these rare pieces of art to our community.”

“When people come to this exhibition, they’re going to see amazing works of art that reveal the diversity of the ancient world and the ways that the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome interacted and influenced each other more than 2,000 years ago,” says VMFA’s Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art Dr. Peter Schertz.

Highlights of the exhibition include a nearly 18-foot-tall, 5.6-ton statue of the god Hapy, the largest stone statue of a god recovered from ancient Egypt, beautiful statues of other gods and rulers of that civilization, as well as fascinating objects used to celebrate the annual Mysteries of Osiris. Powerful photography, films, maps, graphics, and an audio guide provide context and background on how these cities were lost and rediscovered. Visitors to the exhibition will discover the cosmopolitan society that emerged from the blending of Greek and Egyptian cultures after the conquests of Alexander the Great. A key aspect of the exhibition is the exploration of the cult of Osiris, ruler of the underworld and god of new life, who was celebrated throughout Egypt. Goddio’s excavations have brought to light a wealth of implements used in the celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris, one of the great religious ceremonies of ancient Egypt, which involved a maritime procession through the canals that once connected the two cities.

The exhibition is free for VMFA members, children ages 6 and under, state employees and teachers, as well as active-duty military personnel and their immediate families; $20 for adults; $16 for seniors 65+; and $10 for youth 7–17 and college students with ID.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Museum of History and Culture announce reopening plans

Two prominent Richmond museums have announced plans to reopen under modified operating plans – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

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Two prominent Richmond museums have announced plans to reopen under modified operating plans – the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

The VMFA’s announcement:

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) announced it will reopen to the public on Saturday, July 4, 2020; museum members will have early access beginning July 1. With its reopening, the museum will resume its regular operating hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday until 9 p.m. VMFA’s plans were announced as the City of Richmond entered Phase 2, lifting more COVID-19 related restrictions.

“We appreciate the community’s patience and support while the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was temporarily closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “We are committed to providing a safe, artful experience once again and we’re excited to welcome the community back to VMFA!”

Following the guidance of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the museum will implement safeguards to help ensure the health and well-being of its visitors, staff and volunteers. Wearing face coverings will be required and disposable masks will be provided to those who do not bring their own. To limit the number of people within the museum at one time, visitors will enter through the main entrance near the McGlothlin Wing on the first floor and exit near the Art Education Center located off North Arthur Ashe Boulevard, also on the first floor. Physical distancing must be practiced while inside the museum and outside on VMFA’s grounds. The facilities and campus will be cleaned and sanitized daily, with high-touch areas and restrooms cleaned more frequently. Hand-sanitizing stations will be available throughout the museum. Clear acrylic partitions are installed at Visitor Services, in the VMFA Shop, and at all public-facing workstations.

The permanent collection galleries and special exhibitions will be open. The exhibition Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop has been extended through October 18. Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities, a new, ticketed exhibition, will also open to the public on July 4. As Sunken Cities promises to be a popular exhibition, admittance will be timed to maintain physical distancing within the galleries. Due to restrictions on gatherings, group tours cannot be scheduled.

VMFA’s casual dining venue Best Café will operate “grab-and-go” service and provide limited seating, spaced to meet physical-distancing standards. Amuse, VMFA’s fine dining restaurant, will also be open with limited seating; reservations are recommended. The Library, currently being reconfigured to distance workstations and equipment, will reopen to visitors by appointment in September. To maintain physical-distancing standards, a limited number of shoppers will be able to enter the VMFA Shop at one time. Clear acrylic partitions will offer protection during transactions at check-out stations where visitors will be encouraged to use debit cards, credit cards or Apple Pay when purchasing tickets, merchandise, or food at the museum.

For the remainder of the summer, all in-person early childhood programs, kids’ camps, teen camps, and adult studio school classes, as well as K-12-adult guided and self-directed tours are canceled. The museum’s comprehensive online resources, which include art activities, permanent art collections, virtual exhibitions, art history classes and educational programs can be accessed from home through the museum’s website at www.VMFA.museum.

“After weeks of having to keep our galleries closed to the public, we look forward to seeing people return to the museum and rediscover art that consoles, inspires and excites,” said Nyerges.

Complete details about VMFA’s safety measures can be found at www.VMFA.museum/COVID-19.

VMHC’s announcement:

The wait is over – we are excited to announce that the Virginia Museum of History & Culture will re-open to VMHC members on June 27-30 and to all guests on July 1!

Please note that you must purchase a ticket online prior to visiting (free for members; discounted for all others). Please also take time to learn more about our new safety guidelines and other important changes to the museum experience, all designed to help keep you safe. To purchase tickets and learn more, visit VirginiaHistory.org/Tickets.

VMHC Member-Only Preview Days: June 27-30, 2020. Timed tickets during member preview days are available every half hour beginning at 11:00 am with the last entry time at 2:00 pm. (Not a member yet or need to renew? Click here!)
Open to the Public: Beginning July 1, 2020. Timed tickets will be available every half hour starting at 10:00 am with last entry time at 4:30 pm.
We are excited to share with you two new exhibitions:

Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today – Organized in conjunction with the statewide Women’s Suffrage Centennial, this exhibition celebrates a century of women’s social and political activism and the positive changes their work has brought forth in their communities, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Learn more.
A Landscape Saved: The Garden Club of Virginia at 100 – Explore the colorful, courageous, and impressive history of the Garden Club of Virginia and three generations of activists who have produced a strong statewide voice for conservation, gardening, and education surrounding Virginia’s natural resources and historic landscapes. Learn more.

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