Reach Out! ICA Programming

Lee Hood
Since the inception of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in 1963, artists have been able to jump to international fame with the help of being identified and showcased within the walls of the museum. Featuring several different shows at a time, the visitor is able to experience and learn from a variety of contemporary and modern art forms. Rohit Bhargava and JP Morales, the authors of ‘8 Ways to Make Arts Organizations More Human,’ focus on forming connections with people, specifically, the visitors. Encouraging your talent to be themselves, is an integral part to making an institution of this type successful. The ICA has maintained this core value throughout their history. Contemporary artists, such as Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, Robert Indiana, and Agnes Martin, have all had shows early in their careers at the ICA.
Taking this connection to the next level would allow the public and the visitors of the ICA to be encouraged in the same way. While educational programming, lectures, films, and tours are offered, many of them seem to be geared towards artists in the field of contemporary art. Broadening the programming to those that are not familiar or experts in this type of art form, would not only bring in a more diverse audience, but would also allow the public to embrace their inner artist and inner talent. Contemporary art has very little constraints, therefore the learning and application of this art form can reach a wider audience.
There are two educational programs that are offered at similar institutions that I believe the ICA would greatly benefit from. The MoMA offers Peer Learning Groups, which allow a group-directed program to connect individuals to one another. Through mutual interests, peers will choose these groups and staff members will create topic-based learning groups. Each group will be able to explore their specific interests through a variety of activities: readings, guest speakers, screenings, gallery visitor, and off-site trips. These classes are encouraged to be self-directed and peer driven, which allows each group to grow and learn based on what interests suits them the most. Another program that could be emulated at the ICA is the ‘New Art in the Neighborhood,’ at the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis (CAM). This program allows young teen artists to come to CAM during the school year to received pre-professional-level art instruction with the educational staff and visiting artists. This intensive approach allows students to experience resources and opportunities that are not a part of their regular high school curriculum. This competitive program allows young artists to possess the knowledge that is at the forefront of art today, while also giving them the opportunity to build their portfolios and resumes.
With the financial resources that the ICA possesses, I believe that they would be able to incorporate programs similar to the two examples given above, into their curriculum. Specific training and learning would allow visitors to choose what they want to experience, while encouraging them to grow and discover in the world of contemporary art. Programming geared towards younger artists, would not only give them the opportunity to grow professionally, but personally. Again, forming that real connection with your talent and your audience will only further grow the institution and their ‘likability’ in their community and in the museum world.