I is for


I is for


Question 1

What comes to mind when you see/hear the word “institute”?

“A place for study and advancement of knowledge”


“A public space”

“Large, structural, and canonical”


“An established center for exploration and inquiry”

“Think tank”

“A place for study”

“In this context, a postmodern branding of a museum/mausoleum, i.e. this is not a precious/sentimental treatment of the material on view”

“Research, science, medical”

“Education, cultural advocacy, credibility”

“Research, authority”

Question 2

Is ICA an institute? Why?

“Its mission is educative, it has a pedagogy to contemporary art, it is a space that supports artistic research (curatorially and artistically).”

“It seems to be. Question is: what kind of institute? And who runs ‘the show’ i.e. questions of fiscal and structural autonomy in relation to the University of Pennsylvania?”

“I suppose, because it’s cultural.”

“Yes, because they provide both structure and flexibility within artistic pursuits.”

“In my opinion, not really because there isn’t really an explicit scientific or research focus.”

“In art-world usage yes. Though I don’t typically associate it with a large-scale research program.”

“Yes – it’s a center of conversation, research, and entertainment all focused on one general topic – contemporary art!”

“Yes, because it presents inquiries into contemporary art.”

“Because of public programming – the community, further this connects to a broader set of people in Philly and world.”

“It’s an institution because it has a history, a presence; it’s a trusted, authoritative resource.”

“No. It’s an art space (gallery, gathering place, showcase.”

“I think ICA is an institute because of all the interesting talks and programs you do. But I also think ICA has more life and youthful energy than other ‘institutes’.”

“Not sure; I think institute means a place where something is actively being studied or researched, not sure if that’s completely applicable.”

“If it has people actively doing research into contemporary art, then yes. Although when I say actively, I'm thinking of staff that is engaged in consistent research on a weekly if not a daily basis.”

“Yes, by tradition and history.”

Question 3

Is an Institute of Contemporary Art different from a museum? Why?

“Yes, no collection and doesn't purport to contain the facts of history but engage in the present moment with
contemporary issues and thus more flexible, able to change as art changes, or as the relation of art and society change.”

“A museum can be a relatively passive holding and preservation facility. An Institute of Contemporary Art doesn't need to have a sizable permanent collection and can focus more on raising questions about what's actually happening culturally in the region and world. An Institute of Art can be a catalyst for interdisciplinary activities and offer leadership for collaborative efforts to less endowed art groups. It can and should have an activist and collaborative role.”

“Yes, the ICA is not a collecting institution, but beyond that technical fact, they experiment with the way didactic information is disseminated.”

“Sure — it could be a gallery, or studios, or an auction house too. Not to mention performance spaces like Park Ave Armory or a "dis-located" institute like Dia, which supports large works in locations across the globe.”

“It feels like it's more fast-moving and a bit less stodgy than a museum.”

“Museums have collections, which go on exhibition. An institute doesn't necessarily have a collection, but can host exhibitions using artworks gathered/borrowed from anywhere. Museums also borrow; in the end, both create narratives that aim to be relevant.”

“Based on the offerings — events, programs, etc. — at the ICA, it's similar to local museums of art; there's not much difference.”

“Ultimately, no. It is just a matter of where it falls on the museum spectrum. You could be called something other than ICA and still land at the same place on the spectrum, of course. In this case, the branding (name) reinforces the brand (perception of ICA in the cultural landscape).”

Question 4

How would you describe ICA to a friend?

“A multidisciplinary gallery/exhibition space.”

“A space for contemporary art, with exhibitions and programs for the public.”

“A contemporary art gallery, part of Penn, at the cutting edge of contemporary exhibition making and conversation surrounding art and today.”

“If it was someone in the arts, I would describe it as a kunsthalle. To a layperson, I would say it was a "contemporary art museum" or "space."”

“An open-minded museum that has range of platforms from monographic exhibitions of static art to more engaged (interactive?) community projects. Deep commitment to new ideas of how that whole range might be presented.”

“Progressive institution that has increasingly had relevant shows.”

“Philadelphia’s contemporary art space. A museum implies collecting.”