Institute of Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia to Lay Off 20 Percent of Full-Time Staff -ARTnews

The Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.


Over the last year and a half, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond has been plagued by financial troubles, departures, and minor controversies. This week brings further news of turmoil at the ICA VCU.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, a Virginia newspaper, reported on Monday that the museum will lay off 20 percent of its full-time workforce. Six of its 27 employees are set to have their positions eliminated between August of this year and March of next year.

In a statement sent to ARTnews, Dominic Willsdon, the ICA’s executive director, said that the museum would also create positions in the coming nine months to make up for the ones eliminated.

“The staff reorganization is driven by strategic considerations designed to foster the ICA’s growth,” Willsdon said in his statement. “After a successful first year, where we presented more than 100 artists and welcomed more than 100,000 visitors, we found that it was necessary to adapt the ICA’s inaugural staffing plan, which was based on models of existing institutions, to apply what we’ve learned from our own audiences. Through a rigorous research process, involving the input of all staff, our advisory board, VCU leadership and community stakeholders, we discovered that the way our staff was structured did not serve us.”

The layoffs follow a series of staffing changes at the ICA VCU. Prior to its opening in April 2018, the museum’s first director, Lisa Freiman, abruptly stepped down. Willsdon was named as her replacement in September of last year. In the years before its opening, Stephanie Smith replaced Lauren Ross as the museum’s chief curator. Carol Anne Baker Lajoie, the ICA’s director of development, departed in May of this year, and in June, the museum shuttered its café, citing financial difficulties.

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