ASC See Miami Fall 2019: ICA Miami – Javi Fernandez

Student Bio

My name is Javi Fernandez. I’m a sophomore currently pursuing a B.A. in Math Education. I’m not sure what I want to do in the future, but I am interested in being a high school math teacher. I’ve always liked math and been enveloped in pure academia, but in the past year I’ve gotten into many creative outlets I previously had little experience in, like poetry, music, and visual art.

Geography

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is located at 61 NE 41 St., in the Design District of Wynwood. The Design District, as the name implies, is very modern and artistic, and is the primary location for many museums and collections of Miami. Conveniently, across the street from ICA Miami is the Museum Garage, so parking is never an issue.

History

ICA Miami began as an offshoot of the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. A dispute with the city beginning in 2014 over the right to move led to a property settlement that birthed ICA Miami from selected works of the MOCA. In late 2017, ICA Miami opened at last in a building previously belonging to the de la Cruz family.

Mission

The museum’s mission, from their website, is in “promoting continuous experimentation in contemporary art, advancing new scholarship, and fostering the exchange of art and ideas throughout the Miami region and internationally.”

Access

ICA Miami has exceptional accessibility. Most importantly, admission is free all year round. Notably, the ICA has an extremely large elevator that fits well over 30 people, and accomodates wheelchair users very properly. Wheelchair users also have no trouble getting in and out of the building. Additionally important is the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms. There are also programs for kids and adults of all ages.

The membership options are very enticing for anyone. Memberships offer a variety of benefits, and an individual membership, already a measly $50 a year, cuts down to $30 for students, educators, artists, and members of the military. The individual membership includes a 20% discount at the ICA Miami shop, free parking all over the Design District, exclusive discounts at select retailers and restaurants, reserved seating at all ICA Public Programs, and more. The dual membership, offered specially to parents, include all the benefits of the individual membership for the same price per person ($100/year) as well as special access to family events and discounts for education workshops. The most popular membership, for good reason, is the ICA Next membership. For $365/year (or $1 a day!) one can receive all the benefits of the individual membership with the added bonus of invitations to gallery visits, studio tours, special programs, and VIP Opening Cocktail Receptions for major exhibitions, free admission and discounts at nearly 700 museums across the country as part of the North American Reciprocal Museum program, and Modern and Contemporary Reciprocal privileges for over 60 contemporary museums. If that isn’t enough, members also receive VIP access to select Miami Art Fairs!

If you’re a wealthy enthusiastic supporter of ICA Miami, there are membership options for you too! The Patron level for $1000/year offers all the benefits of the ICA Next membership as well as a complimentary gift Dual membership, recognition on the Donor Wall in the museum, and invitations to exclusive events such as private collection viewings, artist studio yours, Donor Circle programming during Miami Art Week, and special programs with ICA curators and artists. Furthermore, Patrons are given the opportunity to join the Patron Council and attend the annual Patron dinner. The Benefactor Level for $2500/year offers all the benefits of the Patron level plus a personal tour of the museum with an ICA curator or educator. The Director membership for $5000/year reaps all the benefits that come with being a Benefactor, as well as exclusive opportunities to participate in art-centric travel opportunities with ICA Miami’s Artistic Director, priory notice for Enchanted Evenings, and invitations to Director Circle receptions outside of Miami. Lastly, the aptly named Visionary membership for $10,000/year offers the incredible benefit of being able to reserve the museum for a private event, as well as one complimentary copy of a newly released ICA Miami publication, and invitations to even more exclusive events such as the ICA Miami Donor Circle Dinner.

Collection

ICA Miami has nearly 100 pieces in its permanent collection, the majority of which seem to be in storage as Sterling Ruby’s two-floor exhibit is on display. Most notable, currently, are Dan Flavin’s trademark fluorescent lights. The museum also touts permanent pieces from acclaimed artists such as Ana Mendieta, Sterling Ruby, Rita Ackermann, and Hernan Bas.

Exhibition

The most noteworthy aspect of ICA Miami is the expansive two-floor exhibition “Sterling Ruby.” Open from Nov 7, 2019 to Feb 2, 2020, this massive retrospective showcases brilliantly the varied works of mid-career artist Sterling Ruby. Over 100 of Ruby’s works are represented across these two floors, including collages, ceramics, drawings, and installations of all sorts of materials from steel to denim to spray paint. One may think it excessive to have two floors dedicated to a single artist, but Ruby’s pieces are so diverse that there is not a shred of redundancy across the exhibition.

The first floor has its fair share of interesting exhibitions. One of the first things you may see upon entering ICA Miami is Robert Goder’s 1978-2000, a series of 22 photographs and collages that surround the harrowing untitled piece in the center of the room; a sewer grate with a body in it. On display from Dec 3, 2019, Wong Ping’s “The Modern Way To Shower” is an absurd and provocative phone screen recording of Ping commissioning a livestream of a latex-clad woman from the deep web. A few steps forward and you are presented with Carlos Sandoval de Leon’s massive untitled mixed-media installation, taking the form of a giant cylindrical hollow shelf. One can spend hours staring and deciphering this exhibition, as it is filled with many objects portraying a certain imagery left to the viewer to piece together.

Special Programs

ICA Miami has a variety of special programs open to the public. One of the most popular events is Family Day, held on the third Sunday of every month. This event invites families and their kids to enjoy hours of creating art together in fun and engaging activities. 

The museum also offers programs for middle school, high school, and college students. The Young Artist Initiative is an 18-week after school program for high school artists to analyze and create art. Students are also provided opportunities to work with leading artists, acquire scholarships and internships, and attend Art Basel. For 7th and 8th graders, the museum offers a two week summer course entitled Portfolio Prep for Academic Art Programs dedicated to helping students to prepare for magnet and charter schools. Lastly, for undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate students, ICA Miami offers paid internships in both education and exhibition records upkeep. 

Also available at ICA Miami are several programs dedicated to promoting discussion about art. ICA Performs invites performance artists to present their works at the museum. ICA Speaks partners with artists from their permanent collection to speak at ICA. ICA Ideas invites acclaimed artists to discuss with an audience about their artworks, ushering in a new method of interacting with the art beyond simply viewing. Lastly, ICA Residents sees the museum collaborate with up and coming organizations to host projects and events.

Visitor Interview

Reia Drucker, 19, visited the museum with her boyfriend on recommendation from a friend. Being a computer science major, she has had relatively little experience with contemporary art, but nonetheless enjoyed her brief excursion to the museum, and expressed an interest in returning. She particularly liked the works of Sterling Ruby’s Mapping series (which reminded her of graph theory), and the Wong Ping installation “The Modern Way To Shower.” She admitted having no knowledge of any of the programs offered at the ICA, which she attributed to lack of proper advertising. 

Employee Interview

What is your name and what do you do at the ICA?

Itzel Basualdo. Youth Programs Coordinator. I am responsible for recruiting interns and volunteers, but primarily I am in charge of two youth programs at the museum. I am a teacher and mentor, if you will, for teenagers who are enthusiastic about art and are interested in furthering their skills and knowledge of contemporary art.

How long have you been employed with the ICA?

Five months.

What is the best part of the job to you?

Interacting with talented and bright teenagers. Seeing life through their eyes through the art they make.

What drew you to work at the ICA?

I was looking for a job that would keep me close to my interests (art, art, art). I’ve never had my own class — I was a teaching assistant throughout grad school, and considered teaching at the undergraduate level after completing my studies, but felt nervous about the prospect of teaching undergrads because of our little to no difference in age. The ICA position, besides keeping me close to my passion, seemed like the perfect blend of all the “professional” skills I’d acquired along the way: event management, some teaching, curating an exhibition, etc.

What is your favorite exhibit/piece currently?

Carlos Sandoval de León. I didn’t grow up knowing of artists whose background was anything like my own, and by that I mean first gen, who grew up in Miami, immigrant, Mexican American. Carlos’ work reflects a genius to curating and altering found materials to reveal alternative meanings, these being specific to his identity. I really recommend everyone check it out and spend some time with the installation, which is scattered with visual poems for one to decipher (or not). 

How well do you think the ICA succeeds in its mission, and at being accessible?

ICA is free, which is really great and technically anyone can enter! We have an excellent visitor services staff that’s extremely knowledgeable on all the art, and all you have to do is ask. However, I think there are other less evident boundaries that keep just anyone from entering the institution. We are located in an enclave of luxury businesses that draws in a very specific audience. Visitors aren’t often told that the visitors services staff is trained and are a treasure trove of information that they can ask questions regarding the works. I’m not sure how conscious the museum is of its geography serving as a gatekeeper, and I’m personally looking through increasing our audience through my youth programming. I’m trying to attract students passionate about the arts from neighboring non-magnet school programs.

Summary

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is a very well-rounded museum. The diverse Sterling Ruby exhibition leaves nothing to be desired, and the interesting works on the first floor, currently ranging from lights to video to multimedia installations, are very enthralling and offer the attendee a chance at introspectiveness. The museum ranks excellently in accessibility, providing gender-neutral bathrooms, spacious elevators, and guided audio tours both via app and through venue-provided headphones. The membership options are a must for any fan of the museum as well: from shop discounts to free parking, the Individual or Next memberships are more than worth it and entice you to return to see more of what ICA has to offer in the future. My sole nitpick with the ICA is with their advertising, particularly with their special programs on their website. The ICA Miami website does not explicitly describe the details of their Ideas, Residents, Performs, and Speaks programs, instead providing a well-meaning but vague mission statement for each one. However, Family Day is an amazing event that does wonders for families, kids, volunteers, and the museum itself. Itzel Basualdo, the Youth Programs Coordinator, does her best to break all barriers by visiting schools around the area to promote ICA Miami’s events. The staff are amazing people who truly do their best to see the museum flourish. ICA Miami is unquestionably one of the best museums I have ever been to.

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