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Executive Director of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University

Job Details

Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University
Executive Director


The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the leading institutes for contemporary arts and design in this country. The ICA is a nexus for creativity and inclusion, where innovative thinking and transformational ideas are drawn from a spectrum of disciplines. Unlike museums that house permanent collections, the ICA’s responsive exhibitions and performances invite audience engagement and challenge visitors to experience and examine art in unexpected ways.

The ICA embraces the arts as a catalyst for discovery— a model that is made possible by the institute’s position at the center of a dynamic arts community, with ties that extend to the far corners of the globe and lead to surprising partnerships.

The institute is part of VCU’s School of the Arts (VCUarts), a vibrant public arts school that is both highly ranked and part of a comprehensive urban research university. The ICA is a focal point of Richmond’s energetic arts district, with a striking building designed by Steven Holl Architects, one of the world’s most important living architects. It is positioned at one of the primary entrances to the VCU campus and just minutes away from the highly regarded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Richmond provides easy access to museums, galleries and institutions up and down the East Coast.

The institute’s reach extends to the global community, most notably through its direct tie to VCUarts Qatar, VCUarts branch campus in the Middle East, where the role of arts education is constantly and rapidly evolving. This allows the ICA to tap into the limitless possibilities for global integration, with arts and design at the center of that collaboration.

VCU’s president, Michael Rao, Ph.D., said of the institute, “The ICA is a critical initiative for VCU, an opportunity to enhance the creativity and community relations of the entire university. It is much more than an innovative building and the pillar of a vibrant arts district — it is a bridge that will link VCU’s campuses, serve as a gateway to Richmond and help bring the arts community in Richmond the national and international renown it deserves. The ICA embodies the goal of VCU’s strategic plan, to be a top urban public research university.”

Since opening in 2018, the ICA has set a strategic course as a young, socially engaged institution that foregrounds intersectional dialogues and mutual learning through the lens of a diverse group of contemporary artists. The ICA engages with its audiences – from students and scholars to artists and local community members – and pioneers new entry points into the arts. This includes:

● A robust curatorial catalog , showcasing an ever-changing slate of exhibitions, performances, films, and special programs that translate our world into every medium. The ICA is committed to increasing visibility and opportunity for artists and audiences who have been historically underrepresented.
● Creation of the VPM + ICA Community Media Center , an unprecedented partnership with VPM, Virginia’s home for public media, dedicated to creating new opportunities for storytelling, training and educating the next generation of audio producers, and amplifying voices often missing from traditional media. In 2023 the Media Center launched the annual RESONATE podcast festival , which has brought international attention to this initiative and the ICA.
● Support for contemporary art education through the Common Prize - a new annual award recognizing artists, collectives, curators, educators, and writers whose work centers on contemporary art as a learning site.
● Amplification of the student experience and provide real-world, arts-centered employment opportunities . The ICA offers VCU students a variety of student internships in fields like graphic design, content strategy, interior design, and photo/film, as well as our Visitor Engagement Associate program.

Through the institute’s impactful audience engagement initiatives, educational mission, global partnerships and unmatched vision, the ICA is an epicenter of innovation that changes the way the world understands and discusses the art - and issues - of our time.


The 41,000-square-foot building designed by Steven Holl Architects was opened to the public on April 21, 2018. Located on the corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets, it is placed at the most traveled intersection in the city of Richmond with 60,000 cars passing by every day. Reflecting the ICA’s intention to link campus, community and contemporary art, the Markel Center has two entrances: a “city” entrance opening toward this busy intersection, and a “campus” entrance that leads to a reflecting pool and tranquil outdoor space. Exterior spaces offer an additional 10,000 square feet of creative space. Its interior, with “forking galleries” on three levels, is “intended to change the narrative about contemporary art,” says Holl. “The nature of this building is to embrace the unknown and act as a catalyst for all the directions that contemporary art might be taking.” Funded through $37 million in private contributions, the building houses a 240-seat performance space, four galleries of 9,800-square-feet total, a reception hall/atrium “forum,” a café with prep kitchen, shop, offices, meeting rooms, design studio, podcasting studio, art storage, prep and fabrication spaces.

Exterior space includes a second-floor terrace and both on-site and adjacent parking. Sheathed in zinc with a pre-weathered patina, it has clear and translucent glass walls. With LEED Gold Certification, the building was named one of Architectural Digest’s 12 most anticipated buildings of 2018.


As a highly ranked school, VCUarts is a place where the next generation of artists, designers, performers and scholars are empowered to excel in the most daring pursuits they can imagine. Every year, 3,000 undergraduates and more than 100 graduate students come together to explore the constantly evolving role of the arts in our modern society. Students push the frontiers of artistic discovery through bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 16 departments and programs, including top-ranked sculpture and graphic design graduate programs, and an acclaimed cinema program.

The curriculum is grounded in relevant, innovative and entrepreneurial activities that electrify the imagination and fuel the engines of curiosity. Students redefine what is possible by discovering innovative ideas that occur at the nexus of arts and other disciplines. They join deep, collaborative partnerships with the schools of Medicine, Engineering and Business — as well as numerous other disciplines at the university. The school’s annual budget of $37 million and endowment of more than $24 million funds endeavors that not only feed artistic souls but allow the community to pursue creative and daring opportunities with the potential for social change.

While VCUarts is located at the center of a dynamic arts community in Richmond, its reach is extensive, most notably through its campus in Qatar. VCUarts Qatar connects the home campus to a rapidly evolving region of global significance, where the role of arts and design is leading transformative shifts in myriad industries. The Doha campus exemplifies VCU’s commitment to global outreach and education, presenting significant opportunities for cross-
cultural exchange, and increases the visibility and impact of the School of the Arts internationally.

Students at VCUarts have direct access to more than 170 inspired full-time faculty and enthusiastic mentors with unsurpassed professional expertise. Motivated faculty, recognized for accomplishments in their professional lives, have curated or participated in hundreds of exhibitions and performances; won fellowships, residencies and grants; and received numerous notable awards and honorifics.


The CoStar Center for Arts and Innovation (CCAI) will soon begin taking shape adjacent to the ICA. The more than 200,000-square-foot academic building will be the most extensive, publicly-funded, arts education structure in Virginia and will facilitate greater interdisciplinary collaboration across the university. In significant ways the CCAI will present myriad possibilities for the School of the Arts, as, at the same time, it serves as a resource for VCU and the wider Richmond community.

Designed to integrate multiple fields of study and creative practices, the CCAI will feature flexible classroom spaces, interdisciplinary performance venues, and makerspaces for rapidly growing partnerships across the arts, business, humanities and sciences, medicine, and engineering.

The facility is made possible by a historic partnership with an $18 million investment from CoStar Group, and support from the state legislature, and arts benefactors.

Recognizing VCU as an urban university and a part of downtown Richmond, the CCAI in partnership with the ICA will form a welcoming, arts-centered gateway, redefining and strengthening the front door to VCU's Monroe Park Campus and the arts district.


VCUarts Qatar was established through a partnership with the Qatar Foundation and offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design, interior design and painting and printmaking. The campus recently added a BFA in kinetic imaging to its offerings and will intake the first class in the fall of 2024. VCUarts Qatar also offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history and a Master of Fine Arts degree in design.

VCUarts Qatar celebrated 25 years of art and design education in Qatar in 2023.

Located in Doha, the vibrant capital city of Qatar, VCUarts Qatar is fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA). The current student body represents a diverse range of nationalities with students coming from 35 countries.

VCUarts Qatar is dedicated to global outreach and education and provides students with an environment for cross-cultural exchange that fosters inquiry, discovery and innovation. Examples of this mission are the two significant international conferences hosted by VCUarts Qatar—the biennial design conference, Tasmeem Doha and the biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art. VCUarts Qatar attracts globally recognized designers, artists and scholars while fostering partnerships within the region, and beyond, that enhance the educational, economic and cultural vitality of Qatar. Having established itself as a center of excellence for education and research, VCUarts Qatar has substantial involvement with the influential art and design world of the Middle East, and is a catalyst for the growth and development of these fields in the region.

VCUarts Qatar has 154 full-time faculty and staff and a student body of 305. VCUarts Qatar was the first school established in Education City, a unique 2500-acre multiversity campus which has expanded to include Georgetown University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Texas A&M University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Northwestern University, and HEC Paris as well as Qatar’s own university, Hamid Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).

Qatar, with English as the standard second language, is a progressive country in the Arabian Gulf and remains one of the healthiest economies in the Gulf region. Qatar is a safe and welcoming country, with an ever evolving contemporary and cosmopolitan capital city that is bustling with development while honoring its rich traditions. Qatar recently hosted the FIFA World Cup 2022, and the 2023 Asian Cup, as well as the 2024 World Aquatics Championship, and its prominence as a sport and entertainment center is growing year-over-year. Qatar is home to many cultural sites and museums, including The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in March 2019, the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M.Pei opened in November 2008 and the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf) opened in 2010.


Located in downtown Richmond, the state capital of Virginia, VCU enrolls more than 28,000 students in more than 200 degree and certificate programs across its urban campuses: the downtown Monroe Park and MCV campuses in Richmond; the Rice Rivers Center in Charles City, Virginia; separate campuses in Fairfax, Virginia, and Charlottesville, Virginia, for the School of Pharmacy; and a campus in Doha, Qatar, for the School of the Arts.

VCU is designated as a research university with very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation, garnering more than $464 million in sponsored research funding in 2023. The National Science Foundation ranked VCU among the top 100 in the country, and VCU is one of only 54 universities nationwide to be designated by the Carnegie Foundation as “Community Engaged” with “Very High Research Activity.”

This research enterprise and the influence of having the nation’s No. 1 public graduate arts school, ensures students receive unique educational experiences that equip them with a creative mindset that sets them apart. As a 5-time Diversity Champion from INSIGHT’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, VCU knows that a diverse community is a strong community.

VCU’s contributions in talent, innovation and entrepreneurialism, regional stewardship and local culture shape the economic impact and overall quality of life in the region. In 2023, U.S. News named VCU No. 38 in Most Innovative Schools. Students dedicate more than 1.3 million hours annually in service to the community and VCU as a whole generates more than $6 billion in economic activity. It is the largest employer in Richmond with more than 24,000 employees at VCU and VCU Health, and it supports approximately 63,000 jobs in Virginia. In addition, Virginia classifies VCU with a Tier III status -- the highest possible status for universities and colleges -- allowing VCU more flexibility in managing its operations to implement best practices and streamline processes.

VCU’s mission is to advance knowledge and student success through its commitments to:

● Real-world learning that furthers civic engagement, inquiry, discovery and innovation
● Research that expands the boundaries of new knowledge and creative expression and promotes translational applications to improve the quality of human life
● Interdisciplinary collaborations and community partnerships that advance innovation, enhance cultural and economic vitality, and solve society’s most complex challenges
● Health sciences that preserve and restore health for all people, seek the cause and cure of diseases through groundbreaking research and educate those who serve humanity
● Deeply ingrained core values of diversity, inclusion and equity that provide a safe, trusting and supportive environment to explore, create, learn and serve


Established as the commonwealth’s capital in 1780, Richmond, Virginia, is a vibrant mix of history, diverse culture and real-world opportunities. Its rich history is much in evidence in the architecture, the Capitol grounds and the cobblestone streets around the city. Distinct neighborhoods, cozy restaurants and cafes and quaint local markets give the city an intimate feel, but theaters, galleries, music festivals, sports attractions and a steady stream of annual events bring RVA -- as locals call the region -- to life. With the historic James River and 550 acres of parks bordering it, bike trails, wineries, breweries, a flourishing arts, entertainment and restaurant scene and affordable suburbs, this small city with a low cost of living punches well above its weight in terms of attractions and buzz.

Richmond’s location in the middle of the state allows for day or weekend trips to the beach, the Blue Ridge Mountains or Virginia’s many wineries. Richmond’s location places VCU within a two-hour drive of Washington, D.C., and a multitude of excellent institutions of higher education. It is within a day’s drive of 50 percent of the nation’s population and is in the path of growth in the mid-Atlantic metropolitan corridor. The Richmond metropolitan area is also home to 10 Fortune 1000 companies, a broad base of financial companies, hospitals and media firms, high-tech manufacturing companies and state and local government agencies.


The executive director will provide the creative vision, leadership and strategic direction for the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU (ICA), shaping its role as an outstanding arts institution and part of the highly ranked School of the Arts (VCUarts). Reporting directly to the Dean of VCUarts, who also serves as the Special Assistant to the Provost for VCUarts Qatar, the executive director has a secondary reporting relationship to the University Provost. This position is an Executive and Senior Leader Staff position; however, candidates may be eligible for a term (non-tenure eligible) faculty appointment depending upon their qualifications and experience. The executive director could teach in a discipline that aligns with their area of expertise. Within the context of VCUarts’ mission, the executive director will leverage the ICA’s unique positioning in an arts and design school, within an R1 research university, at the intersection of Richmond’s rich and diverse community.

In close collaboration with the VCUarts dean, the executive director will articulate a dynamic and inclusive institutional vision and shape programming that will motivate and galvanize staff and build active participation and support from community members. The executive director will support the curatorial staff in planning and executing an ambitious exhibition and public programming schedule of the highest quality. The executive director will work collaboratively with the VCUarts dean, department chairs and faculty to identify and maximize opportunities for mutual support and integration between VCUarts and its constituents and the educational offerings at the ICA. The executive director will build relationships to strengthen the ICA’s network to include other units across the university, keeping in mind that the entire faculty and student body of VCU are important audiences.


The executive director will have the following priorities:

● Know VCU and its School of the Arts thoroughly; learn its history and culture, educational and public programs, operations, and constituents; understand its base of support and its potential
● Develop, along with the VCUarts Dean, staff, and key volunteers, a programmatic vision for the ICA that reflects a commitment to excellence and “the new,” a foundation in contemporary art, and a dedication to programming that is made accessible to a wide range of audiences; embrace technology and new media in order to meet audiences when and where they want to learn
● Under the direction of the dean, the executive director will closely collaborate with the faculty, key volunteer leaders, staff, students, and community to incorporate the ICA into VCUarts’ strategic plan that aligns with the university’s strategic plan, Quest 2028: One VCU Together We Transform
● Identify avenues for introducing contemporary art and the ICA to the broadest audience possible; be an active participant and leader in the cultural arena and position the ICA as a convener and catalyst; identify opportunities to collaborate across a broad spectrum of regional, national and international arts institutions
● Remain abreast of current thinking and trends in contemporary art and informed about exhibitions and programming in peer institutions
● Forge strong and sustainable working relationships within VCUarts and VCU; contribute to the leadership and development of new and multidisciplinary connections across the university
● Develop and engage with existing support entities such as the ICA Advisory Board and the Development Committee, among others, to allow active collaboration; serve as a visionary leader, encouraging all collaborators’ interests in advances in contemporary art and keeping them informed on a regular basis; help identify and cultivate the next generation of leaders
● Engage in and support philanthropic outreach and public service efforts for the ICA
● Create a sustainable financial model, understanding and shaping the financial dynamics of the organization, developing budgets, managing the ICA fiscal affairs and setting strategic, operational and financial direction
● Work closely with the ICA’s communications and development staff to grow and expand its reach to include local, regional, national and international audiences, and develop the financial and fundraising plans necessary to provide for financial sustainability
● Inspire, motivate and develop ICA staff and volunteers
● Develop and implement initiatives that reflect a commitment to community engagement, social justice and education in support of the university’s mission to increase student access
● Cultivate and sustain an inclusive, diverse, welcoming and accessible environment for all
● Develop short- and long-range plans and continually ensure that policies are evaluated, implemented and congruent with institutional goals and industry best practices


The ICA seeks a visionary leader who is future-focused, daring and bold. The executive director will be a convener of extraordinary ideas and a curious, inspiring, innovative, entrepreneurial and experienced leader who brings to the role a record of achievement reflective of the ICA’s standards of excellence.

The executive director will demonstrate:

● An understanding of and commitment to contemporary art, knowledge of the international art world and its key players, and an ability to translate this awareness into meaningful collaborations and exhibitions for the institution that speak to the internal campus and external audiences
● Senior-level administrative experience in an arts organization known for quality and excellence and familiarity with a contemporary art museum/gallery setting
● Ability to develop, articulate and implement a shared strategic vision and plan and unite others around common goals
● Proven experience in administration, infrastructure development, and budget and facilities management
● Ability to guide and empower a dynamic and creative team
● Direct experience planning and implementing innovative and experimental programming
● Ability to build and nurture relationships with a wide range of individuals from artists to academics to collectors to business and civic leaders
● A record of fundraising success and the ability to serve as the chief fundraiser for the ICA to proactively address development needs, build a substantial endowment fund, and cultivate existing as well as new donors and patrons while ensuring that sound fundraising strategies are in place
● Effectiveness as an enthusiastic and motivating spokesperson and ambassador for an institution or program; excellent interpersonal, verbal, writing and public speaking skills
● Demonstrated evidence of fostering a welcoming and productive environment for faculty, staff, students and visitors
● A master’s or doctoral degree in an appropriate discipline
● Professional experience in an academic environment is a decided plus; knowledge of American Alliance of Museums standards and practices is desired
● Commitment to bringing cultural experiences to wide and diverse audiences
● Conversant in the use of technology and digital media in promoting an institution, reaching audiences and creating innovative and engaging exhibitions and programs


For best consideration, please send all nominations and applications including letter of interest, diversity statement (see below for details), CV, and references by May 3, 2024 to:

Susan VanGilder, Global Managing Partner and Practice Leader
Susan Kart, Senior Search Associate
Lareese Hall, Senior Search Associate

For more information about the ICA, please visit


Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to organizational diversity, equity and inclusion – an environment where all can thrive in their pursuit of excellence. VCUarts strongly encourages applications from all racial, ethnic, gender, and social identities.

Applicants are requested to submit a Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (typically between 150-300 words) providing your career aspirations and contributions toward promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through this statement, you can share how your lived experiences, and academic and professional activities will impact your contribution to VCU’s mission of promoting equity and inclusion.

Note: Examples include working with others to further the goals of equity and inclusion; leading in any capacity that tangibly promotes an environment where diversity is welcomed, fostered, and celebrated; creative activity, research and scholarship that promotes equity and parity; teaching and mentoring students, and/or engaging with faculty and/or staff from traditionally underrepresented groups to create a positive and successful organizational experience.

Click here for additional guidance on writing a Statement of Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to providing accessible and equitable living, learning and working environments free from discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex (including pregnancy), political affiliation, veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or disability.

Salary Range: Commensurate with relevant experience of final candidate.

Position Details:

This is a multi-series recruitment with the final job title to be determined based upon the skills and experience of the final candidate.

University Job Title: Executive Director ICA 1-3

ORP Eligible: Yes

Department: Institute for Contemporary Art
Employment Type: UF - University Employee FT
Restricted Status: No
FTE: 100%
Exemption Status: Exempt

Contact Information:

Susan VanGilder, Global Managing Partner and Practice Leader

Susan Kart, Senior Search Associate

Lareese Hall, Senior Search Associate

Storbeck Search


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