I is for


I is for

What’s in a name? This is the question underlying our investigation into ICA: how it came to be, what it means now, and how we might imagine it in the future.

Support for the research and development of I is for Institute has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. © 2017–22 Institute of Contemporary Art. All rights reserved.



The phrase “I is for Institute” is at once a declaration, a prompt, and a position...

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  • 12.13.22

    We've gotten so institutionalized, so programmed, so prescribed...there's something that's eroding our ability to be human with one another. But even more than that, we're losing sight of the very things that are in front of us and within us."–Linda Goode Bryant

  • 10.26.22

    As you exist for a longer amount of time, the idea is that the organization has to get bigger and bigger…Instead, maybe the ambition could be to be more like mycelium. Instead of getting bigger, we spread out further. And in the spreading out, we nurture each other equally, so that we all grow across a bigger geographic distance, instead of just becoming bigger in one place.”

  • 08.11.22

    We're not only committed to our future and our sustainability, but to those of our colleague institutions and wanting to really nurture this small arts ecology, and find a way to work together to resource share to really do those things that you always have to do to get by."

  • 06.27.22

    We want you to unfreeze the monuments and understand how they are constantly shifting and changing, and that people hold history, not statues."

  • 03.28.22

    What I'm seeing across the field with Native organizations similar to NACF (Native Arts and Cultures Foundation), and other BIPOC organizations is this standing in our truth, and really activating our values and our beliefs, and doing, actually doing what it takes."

  • 01.18.22

    In the end, it has to be people that change institutions.”

  • 10.21.21

    As an institution I'd like to work in relation because it's only when you work in relation that you can also start to feel the impact of somebody else.”

  • 09.11.20

    Today, more than ever, we need places for growth, meaning and community that are inclusive, accessible and open to everyone. Perhaps it is worth contemplating the notion of liberating culture from economic and political obligations or expectation to perform as a tool or proxy for any agenda.”

  • 06.29.20

    When people’s minds change and when we recognize how knowledge, narratives and power are put together, we’ll have the tools to make a lot more changes and infrastructure will be ours—it won’t be something that controls us.”

  • 06.22.20

    Moving forward, I hope that if institutions are trying to open up to collaboration and to greater involvement, greater diversity, that’s done in a way that is also very respectful of individuals and the work that they’re putting into creating institutions or practice.”

  • 06.22.20

    How do we extract art from the problematics of institutions and the problematics of capitalism? Art has been and is increasingly becoming a symptom of those things.”

  • 06.22.20

    It’s really time for us to question the universal ideal of contemporary art. Is the museum going to be the same after the pandemic? How do we survive this without dismissing everything we have achieved in the past few decades?”

  • 04.30.20

    We can’t settle down too much, feel too comfortable, plan too far ahead. We have to constantly adapt, be flexible, rethink, but avoid overthinking, and continue to change, though not necessarily grow.”

  • 01.20.20

    We decided that we need to go the direction of the museum to start speaking as an institution, not just a place for exhibitions. We have to start actively producing knowledge as an institution, and that’s how you start speaking as one.”

  • 12.19.19

    I think what we’re often taught about art, and especially about art within the Western canon, is that bigger is better and that there is such a thing as an institution with a capital “I” that dictates thinking of art itself: how it operates, everything...When funding is a bit scarce, or if politics are involved, these institutions are big dinosaurs that don’t have the agility to move around, whereas smaller organizations have the possibility to actually be as responsive as possible to the local context.”

  • 12.10.19

    A large part of why NuMu was created was to question what a museum should be like in the 20th century. If some people have come to see NuMu as a museum, then it’s a great start in redefining that term.”

  • 07.23.19

    We’re returning to ideas of creating and maintaining systems as a real priority for our generation to work on, rather than accepting the atomized future that we are being told we have.”

  • 07.22.19

    If we acknowledge the interdependence between the personal and political and remain curious and imaginative, we can take some steps toward positive change, not just for institutions or curatorial practices, but for our lives as well.”

  • 07.12.19

    We have been looking back to the past and its different histories as important tools in understanding present social and political events, both locally and globally. This also serves as a productive way to project futures.”

  • 05.17.19

    We don't fall victim to the stereotypes or categories that exist within the art world—whether or not you have an education, or you are disabled, or you are of a certain race, color, sexuality, etc. We show good work, serious work, by people who are engaged with serious ideas.”

  • 05.16.19

    We think of ourselves as an anchor institution, playing a critical role in helping define the city and its identity, and really functioning as a community gathering place that reflects the people who live here.”

  • 05.01.19

    Looking at the artists we are working with and our mission statement, it is clear that we work with artists who are addressing important issues of our time. All of them are engaged, whether politically, socially, economically, or environmentally—not necessarily in a direct way, but more through poetic gestures. They make work that may inspire you, or make you rethink your point of view about the world.”

  • 05.01.19

    In a way, we are trying to develop an institutional form that emerges from a practice of making and collaborating; from a process rather than a defined structure.”

  • 04.16.19

    One of the things that I'd been thinking about in equity and inclusion work is that we're learning and growing, but that we need to utilize connections with people who have already been invested in this type of work.”

  • 03.29.19

    Risk-taking is vitally important in our constantly changing field, where even the idea of medium, or ideas that we have about how we present work, always evolve. It only makes sense that institutional structures would evolve with these changes.”

  • 03.25.19

    I think new models should be, and need to be, invented. If we're going to develop projects that are independent of the market, we need to have public support.”

  • 03.12.19

    My commitment to working with women artists, artists of color, and queer-identifying artists is something that would be consistent wherever I am. That commitment is to my peers and colleagues as well as to under-recognized artists within institutions, and not just in a tokenistic way, but something we are actually building into the DNA of the institution.”

  • 03.11.19

    We’ve created our own monster with all of this institutional critique, and it went to another place where institutions started to embed some of that ethic, or were founded based on that ethic, but the public ultimately didn’t see the work that we do in institutions. While there are frustrations that arise from these points of tension, revealing all of this and holding institutions accountable is really important.”

  • 03.04.19

    The idea of an institution with a reoccurring set of qualities that repeats itself has to allow for change...Why not adapt to new models instead of just completely restarting everything?”

  • 02.04.19

    It’s the communities that give legitimacy to the institution and the reason why the institution should exist—not an abstract public spectatorship. What we care about is how to relate to one another and how to consider diverse, different levels and entrances of understanding and relating to something.”

  • 01.29.19

    I’ve never been more assured and confident in the power of art. In such a chaotic world now, I think art is really that last thing that we can hold onto. It is the place where we can make differences.”

  • 01.24.19

    I haven’t found a vaccine yet for the institution, but I’m trying...What can be done in an institution? How can you break the rules, and what happens when you break the rules? It doesn’t have to be in the space; it can happen outside. How can we research and give something back to the audience?”

  • 01.11.19

    It is definitely the people I get inspired by, rather than the institutions. The staff is definitely the most important part of any art institution—they make the institution, in fact.”

  • 01.08.19

    I always think art works better in the long-run. Building critical content takes time, but it is important to always take the temperature of the context and position yourself ethically and politically.”

  • 12.07.18

    I do not feel like I’ve done my job if only four people have come in to see the exhibition. Because we have a broader platform, and we have more resources, and we have more captivity, and we have more staff, we have a responsibility to get a broad audience and as many people as possible that have never been to a museum.”

  • 09.19.18

    I’ve been really interested in thinking about internal measures of success for institutions and the satisfaction of coming to work and doing one’s job and the collegiality and the social relationships that form in an institution.”

  • 08.27.18

    One of the most dramatic shifts in the art world in the last 20 years is that the centrality of New York is no longer taken as a given. It has opened a lot of space, I think, for other cities, other regions, to emerge.”

  • 08.21.18

    We are an institution. I think you can’t escape it. We’re all the elements of an institution, but can we be an innovative, new approach to an institution? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

  • 08.16.18

    One of the things I feel like I’ve learned from artists is that art is not necessarily in the problem-solving business. It is not always there to prove a point or resolve an injustice, but to complicate the terms or complicate what a 'problem' or a 'solution' might even consist of.”

  • 08.15.18

    People understand who you are based on what you do, not based on your mission statement. Your mission statement can be aspirational and can hold all those things.”

  • 08.08.18

    I see the institution as a muscle that gets its strength from the fantastic people working here.”

  • 07.26.18

    For me, the institution is about mediation and an exchange of communication. The institution is about time. It’s about losing time. It’s about giving a different reality. It’s about reflection.”

  • 07.18.18

    How do you change the way an institution thinks? You change it through the way that individuals think.”

  • 07.10.18

    We've often used the phrase 'events, not objects,' to talk about what we do.”

  • 07.09.18

    We haven’t tried to cubbyhole ourselves, which has left us free to try and do things, whatever we felt was part of this larger mandate.”

  • 07.03.18

    As a curator, I see myself as a mediator working to find and present different access points to an artist’s work. How can we create more avenues for people to enter the work that the artist may not think of? In our role of intermediary between artist and public, how can we create more channels of connections with people?”

  • 06.28.18

    Deploying the word institute was meant to emphasize how focused we are on exhibitions and public programming.”

  • 06.11.18

    Sometimes as curators, as institutions, we have to be door-to-door salesmen, stepping out of the white cube, bringing art and ideas to the street.”

  • 06.09.18

    The core idea is to create collective spaces and find ways of coming together and develop confidence among art practitioners about what they do and how they contribute to complex issues.”

  • 05.31.18

    I like the idea that the institute is a place of learning, and not just a place of learning, but it’s a place of constructing pedagogy.”

  • 05.30.18

    What's interesting about Asia Art Archive...is that while it has a scholarly side, it's also very focused on contemporary art and feels much more in dialogue with what's happening with artists.”

  • 05.25.18

    I’ve seen institutions as collections of people who make culture together. I believe in them as containers for ideas and for history, and as forms that bring together people towards common purpose.”

  • 05.21.18

    You don’t need to see the gallery as a place that validates something as art. You can actually introduce so many different kinds of practice.”

  • 04.10.18

    If our job as an organization is to create relationships between artists and audiences, how can we be legible and transparent? How do we make transparent what it is that an artist does?”

  • 05.03.17
  • 03.15.17
  • 02.22.17
  • 01.10.17

    Being creative and making a difference at the level of the institution is rewarding and fun. We can make the institution we want to see. And the institution necessarily has to change as the situation changes.”

  • 12.05.16

    We’re not art-centric as much as we’re curiosity driven.”

  • 10.15.16

    Kunsthalle Lissabon was simultaneously the result of a desire to create the working conditions that we could stand for, but it was also this reflection on the power of language when it tries to institute something.”

  • 10.15.16

    At a certain point, we started thinking, 'Okay, so do we produce relationships? What are these relationships we're producing and how is that something that is relevant, or how does that become visible?”

  • 10.15.16

    I like the idea of shifting the meaning of the word [institution] that everyone is taking for granted. What would happen if that is not a noun, if it’s a verb? What could it mean to institute for contemporary art? Or to institute contemporary art?”

  • 09.11.16

    It’s about de-centering. I had to unlearn a lot of what I had learned, and in the process of unlearning, use what I had learned to create a new form of learning that’s specific to the local context.”