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ICA director steps down ahead of opening

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The ICA is nearing completion at Belvidere and Broad streets. (Jonathan Spiers)

RICHMOND, Va. — Just three months shy of its scheduled opening, VCU’s long-anticipated Institute for Contemporary Art has lost its leader.

VCU announced Thursday that Lisa Freiman, the ICA’s inaugural director since 2013, had stepped down from the position effective immediately.

Freiman remains a tenured professor with the VCU School of Arts and will return to the classroom after completing a study on artist Claes Oldenburg, according to the announcement.

An interim director is to be named in the near future, followed by a national search for the ICA’s next director over the next several months.

Attempts to reach Freiman for comment were unsuccessful. An automatic reply on her VCU email account stated she is no longer director and is turning her attention to the Oldenburg study, which she described as “a major publication project” that she plans to complete over the course of this year. The message says she plans to return to teaching in 2019.

Thursday’s announcement included a statement from Freiman, who said the time is right for her to pursue other interests.

“With the completion of the capital campaign last fall, the launch of the endowment campaign and a dynamic roster of exhibitions and programs in place for the opening and beyond, I would like to turn my attention to some projects that I had to put on hold,” Freiman is quoted as saying. “Now that we have built out our curatorial and administrative staff, I am confident the ICA is in good hands.”

Asked if the resignation was anticipated or a surprise, VCU spokeswoman Pam Lepley referred to the announcement but noted Freiman’s departure comes about a month and a half after the ICA’s originally scheduled opening date.

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