get tickets

Advance tickets are now available for visits through June 30. Book now

Summer 2018 at the Watershed

Inaugurating the new ICA Watershed in East Boston is an exhibition of works by artist Diana Thater (b. 1962, San Francisco) that create immersive experiences through light and moving image projections.

The installation will center on Thater’s artwork Delphine, reconfigured in response to the Watershed’s raw, industrial space and coastal location. In this monumental work, underwater film and video footage of swimming dolphins spills across the floor, ceiling, and walls, creating an immersive underwater environment. As viewers interact with Delphine, they become performers within the artwork, their own silhouettes moving and spinning alongside the dolphins’. 

In addition to Delphine, the Watershed will feature a recent sculptural video installation, A Runaway World, focused on the lives and worlds of species on the verge of extinction and the illicit economies that threaten their survival. Produced in Kenya in 2016 and 2017, A Runaway World is staged within a unique architectural environment of free-standing screen structures designed by the artist. 

Thater received a BA in Art History from New York University before receiving her MFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She has had major solo exhibitions at leading institutions, including the Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul (2017); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2016); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2015); Kunsthaus Graz, Austria and Natural History Museum, London (2009). Her work was featured in the 56th Venice Biennale at The Azerbaijan Pavilion as well as several Whitney Biennials (1995, 1997, and 2006), and is represented in prominent museum collections worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) and Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam). Among her numerous notable awards, Thater has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2005) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1993). A prolific writer and educator, Thater lives and works in Los Angeles, where she teaches at the Art Center College of Design.

About the Watershed
On July 4, the ICA will expand its artistic programming across Boston Harbor to the Watershed, a new space for art in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Award-winning firm Anmahian Winton Architects (AW) has been engaged to design the renovation of the facility, a former copper pipe factory, and restore the historic building for new use. The ICA will present artworks and public programs seasonally in the newly renovated 15,000-square-foot space while continuing year-round programming in its Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed facility in Boston’s Seaport District. The Watershed will be a raw, industrial space for art unlike any other in Boston. In addition to a flexible space for exhibitions, programming, and workshops, the Watershed will house an orientation gallery introducing visitors to the historic shipyard complemented by a waterside plaza that will serve as a gathering place with stunning harbor views. The Watershed is located across Boston Harbor from the ICA in the Boston Shipyard and Marina in East Boston. The ICA will provide a boat to bring visitors between both locations. Admission to the Watershed will be free for all.

I am thrilled to share with our audiences a documentary about choreographer and performer Okwui Okpokwasili created during a national tour of her extraordinary, harrowing, and deeply personal one-woman show Bronx Gothic. The film captures scenes from the performance and is interspersed with interviews, anecdotes, and her encounters with audience members. I recently re-watched the film and was reminded of Okwui’s extraordinary gifts as a performer and writer and her unique ability to connect with an audience through performance.

Nearly a year ago, I was privileged to once again experience Okwui’s singular talent and creative ingenuity. Last March, I traveled to New York to attend her performance installation Sitting on a Man’s Head, co-created with Peter Born and presented by Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church. The performance was a continuation of Okwui’s research to excavate historic female protest movements forgotten over time. “Sitting on a man’s head” was a type of protest Nigerian women used during the Women’s War of 1929. The women would gather for hours in the courtyards of British colonial officials, disruptively dancing and singing to shame and embarrass the colonizers and force them to hear and address their concerns.

Entering St. Mark’s Church, I was immediately confronted by a massive, billowing, tent-like structure. A rig of pulleys moved huge swaths of cream-colored fabric back and forth, up and down, like an organ pump or a beating heart. A performer invited me to step inside the undulating shape, and I encountered a group of people walking slowly toward me, each singing, humming, and breathing—together, a collective cacophony of music and noise. At first, I watched, unsure how to join and participate. I looked at the faces and recognized colleagues, performers, and friends entangled together like a collective organism. I self-consciously joined the group and mimicked the slow march of the people next to me. I wasn’t yet able to sing and shout, too aware of my own body next to others’, but over time my breath followed theirs, I hummed to myself softly and then louder, and finally, I joined the full-throated incantation of vibrating bodies. I can’t say how long I stayed—10 minutes? 30 minutes? perhaps more—but in that space, created by Okwui, Peter, and their fellow performers, my body felt connected and intertwined with others, clustered together in movement, breath, and sound.

This was the last performance I would attend before everything went dark. I often think about the absence of those around me and the collective loss we’ve shared. It was like a memorial in anticipation of what was to come.

Screen the documentary Bronx Gothic at home through March 4. See details.

In my role at the ICA I am responsible for the success of each performance from a technical and logistical standpoint. My colleagues and I work with each incoming performance, artist, and group to establish how to fit their show into our space (which includes looking at lighting, audio, special effects, and personnel) and how to do it on time, on budget, and in a safe way.

Elizabeth Streb, a self-described “action architect,” designs shows that are made to test the limits of safety, comfort, and physicality; through her decades as a choreographer, she has honed a technique that expands the athletic boundaries of dance and has trained her dancers to protect their bodies while executing what appear, at least, to be impossible feats. Still, a show like this makes someone like me lose sleep. How do you present something that looks incredibly dangerous without actually imperiling anyone?

I remember getting the plans for the Streb show in 2009. It’s a show that’s filled with large, potentially dangerous components: an enormous hamster wheel that people climb in, around, and on top of; swinging cinderblocks that dancers dive through; and a thick plexiglass wall that dancers literally splat into. How to fit these into our very new, very delicate, glass-walled space where you can’t attach to any surface was, to say the least, a challenge. It was a million questions for Elizabeth Streb, her design team, our facilities team, our engineers, and our lawyers. It was asking the silliest-sounding questions and then trying to explain the reasoning behind the question. It was pictures and diagrams and video links sent back and forth, and it was, at each junction, saying “….hmmm, ok, but what if we…”

In the end, we found ways to make all of the elements fit. We had to place the giant hamster wheel ever so carefully so that the dancers’ heads, when they stood on top of it, were up between the lighting pipes, and there was a height limit for dancers allowed on top. We had hundreds, if not a thousand, pounds of steel blocks weighting down the plexiglass wall, but we had to spread out the point load so as not to break the floor. We had ground-supported truss holding up the cinder blocks at just the right height so that the arc of the swinging cinderblocks was at the right pace, so that the dancers could execute their (very scary looking!) movement safely, as trained.

At the culmination of months of prep work and a week of installation, I sat watching the show, perched on the edge of my seat, white-knuckled, holding my breath, witnessing incredible athletes do impossible, and crazy, things. It was an amazing show that I was proud to be involved with, and happy to see go.

See Elizabeth Streb and her dancers at work in Born to Fly: Elizabeth Streb vs. Gravity, streaming through Feb 25. 

 

 

 

 

As I write this, I sit facing a small print by Louise Bourgeois that hangs in my home office. It is a blood-red flower with a bulbous bloom and four tendrils. Deceptively simple, it makes a strong statement – emotional, suggestive, graphic – and was a Christmas gift from Louise many, many years ago. As we make available to our audiences the documentary Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress, and the Tangerine, I can’t help but remember the years I spent with Louise as her assistant, which always brings a smile to my face. My work with her began when I was a graduate student in New York and saw an index card pinned to the school bulletin board: “help wanted moving books.” I needed a job, so I called and went to interview at her 20th Street home in Chelsea. I had the charge of organizing Louise’s collection of books on all aspects of women’s work and her late husband’s library of art books. I was immensely happy immersed in all those books on her top floor. Gradually, with the libraries in hand, I moved down to the first floor, working alongside Louise as her personal assistant.

I hope you enjoy the film and the time spent on screen with this extraordinary woman and artist. She was full of spit and spirit, complexity and creativity, humor and hubris, and loyalty and love. 

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed huge challenges—economic, medical, emotional, and professional—to working artists, in addition to galleries, museums, recent art school grads, and many art workers. A group of Boston curators and artists put their heads together to create a progressive and potentially valuable means of support and visibility for local and regional artists, especially those without gallery representation. It is the AREA CODE art fair.

An online presentation and sale of artworks, plus platforms for performance, time-based media, public art, and talks, AREA CODE runs August 1–31.

Three aspects of this experimental model stand out to me:

  1. Profit-sharing and the redistribution of wealth! Sales of artwork are distributed as follows: 50% to the artist, 35% to either their gallery/non-profit sponsor or (if unrepresented) back to the cost of administering the fair, and the remaining 15% will be redistributed equally among all section artists at the end of the fair.
  2. The collateral events! Yes, there is a fair. And there are also live-streamed performances, artwork displayed in vacant storefronts, and drive-in video art screenings.
  3. The incredible artist list, all from New England! There are too many amazing artists to list individually, but these people make strong work in every media, teach and are recent grads, curate and write, have exhibited at the ICA (and beyond), and work at area museums.

I had no part in building this event or selecting the participating artists. But over these past months, I have asked myself many times, “How do I support local artists and the Boston arts ecosystem during this time?” The AREA CODE art fair is a welcome path forward. I cannot wait to see these artists’ work virtually and dip into the many offerings throughout the month of August. See it all here

Ruth Erickson is Mannion Family Curator at the ICA. 

The upside of prolonged self-isolation – besides flattening the curve, of course – is catching up art, podcasts, films, videos, and more you’ve been meaning to check out, or having sufficient to let yourself really go down the rabbit hole to new discoveries. 

Here’s a steadily growing list of how ICA staff have been occupying, educating, and distracting ourselves, from brushing up on the Tudors to exploring audio technology to discovering art and artists anew. 
 

Listen

Album cover for Beverly Glenn-Copeland's Keyboard Fantasies, featuring the silhouetted head of an African American man within an abstract stained glass image.

The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland
I first came upon the music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland last June during Pride, and his music resonates even more in this current moment. Glenn-Copeland is a singer, composer, and transgender activist based in Canada who had a long career writing music for children’s public television programs including Sesame Street. Throughout his career he quietly released his own solo works, and 30 years after the release of his awe-inspiring masterpiece, Keyboard Fantasies, he found new success when the album fell into the hands of a Japanese record store owner and was reissued, introducing his music to a new generation around the world. Now, at the age of 76, Glenn-Copeland is receiving critical acclaim and just performed for the first time in the United States this past December at MoMA PS1; this summer he was to tour around the globe. Glenn-Copeland’s uplifting music transcends time and categorization, is healing to the soul, and radiates positivity. I recommend starting with Keyboard Fantasies, and if you are feeling generous, you can support him by purchasing his music via Bandcamp on the first Friday of June or July, when 100% of the proceeds from all purchases go directly to the artists on the platform. I also recommend the lovely documentary Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, if you would like to learn more about this icon in the LGBT community. —Chris Hoodlet, Membership Manager
Explore Glenn-Copeland’s music

 


May 4
Watch

The Oedipus Project
In moments of crisis, I look to the past to comprehend the present. So often, playwrights help us make meaning out of situations that seem impossible, no more so than the ancient Greeks. On May 7 at 7 PM, I’ll be watching scenes from Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, featuring an incredible cast of actors including Frances McDormand, Oscar Isaac, Jeffrey Wright, and David Strathairn. The play offers prescient parallels to our current moment and reminds us that in extraordinary circumstances, wisdom from the past can help us find our way forward.
Watch the Oedipus Project
 

The text

A headshot of choreographer Netta Yerushalmy. She has dark curly hair pulled back and an open orange hoodie over a leopard-print top.

Netta Yerushalmy, Paramodernities Live
When Pam Tanowitz and Simone Dinnerstein performed their phenomenal New Work for Goldberg Variations at the ICA in 2017, I was enthralled with one of the dancers in particular, Netta Yerushalmy, who combined electric physicality with conscientious precision. As it happens, Yerushalmy is an accomplished choreographer in her own right, creator of the celebrated Paramodernities, a “hybrid of academic conference, dance performance, and town hall gathering” in which 20 dancers and scholars deconstruct and contextualize iconic modern dance works. A dance nerd’s dream! I’d been hoping to catch it in person, but now, Yerushalmy is presenting the piece online in daily installments from May 4 to 9, each followed by a 20-minute discussion. And it’s all FREE (but please support the company with a donation if you can). — Kris Wilton, Director of Creative Content and Digital Engagement
Watch Paramodernities Live 

 

The text

National Gallery
National Gallery by Fred Wiseman is a documentary about the National Gallery in London. The New York Times writes, “If you miss visiting museums – the crowds, the docents, even the chatter of audio guides – you won’t find a better substitute than this.” If you haven’t seen a Wiseman film, this is typical of his work.  After my ICA VA experience, I especially appreciate the work of the docents in the film. I watched it on Kanopy, which anybody with a library card has access to.    Gregg Handorff, Visitor Assistant  
Watch National Gallery 

 

Headshot of an African boy against a blue sky. Text reads

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
We watched this film with our 6-year-old son and loved it. It is based on a true story about a 13-year-boy in Africa who designs a windmill to save his family and village in times of need. It makes for great conversation about climate change and reinforces love for family, perseverance, science, and thankfulness. It really is a joy to watch and shot and directed beautifully! — Ami Pourana, Creative Director
Watch The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind 

 

 Visit 

Logo for

THIS LONG CENTURY
THIS LONG CENTURY is one of my favorite websites. Founded in 2008 and edited by filmmaker Jason Evans, THIS LONG CENTURY is an “ever-evolving collection of personal insights from artists, authors, filmmakers, musicians and cultural icons,” including many artists from the ICA’s collection, such as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Liz Deschenes, Sanya Kantarovsky, Senga Nengudi, and Collier Schorr, among others. For the month of April, THIS LONG CENTURY is screening a series of amazing film and video works from past contributors as part of two programs: OUTSIDE and INSIDE. The filmmakers have donated their work, so should you partake, please donate to one or more of the selected US-based Non-Profits and Relief Funds to help people in need right now. — Jeffrey De Blois, Assistant Curator
Visit THIS LONG CENTURY 

The Retreat Space
Three weeks ago, I launched an online community for those seeking refuge, healing, art, play, growth, and connection. I’m rallying amazing artists and healers who are offering free online retreats you can join at home, on a variety of topics (yoga, feng shui, painting, etc.). We are also developing a library of recorded meditations, interviews, and guidance from contributors all around the world. I’m just getting started, and would love for the ICA community to contribute and join us for a retreat! Sign up for email updates for new event info. — Quinn Papazian, Watershed Project Manager
Visit The Retreat Space 
 

Graphic with

LIMA Online
This archive/database of video, performance, and motion-based art. has a lot of artists I love, and the gallery that runs it served me cookies and coffee (excellent, by the way). Some videos are only available at De Appel, but a lot are available online. They also run screenings, lectures, and other educational programming! I look at it a lot for my own practice, and to find other artists. — Alan Vincent, Visitor Assistant
Visit LIMA Online 

Kadist 
Kadist is an interdisciplinary art platform with an international collection that reinforces art’s relevance today and its contribution to key issues of our time. Their innovative program not only focuses on onsite exhibitions but initiates connections and collaborations around the world. Deep dive into their collection online as well as their current online exhibition, “AP: Assembled Personalities.”  — Mehtap Yagci, Executive Assistant
Visit Kadist 

 

Listen

Logo for

The Lonely Palette
The Lonely Palette is my personal favorite art history podcast, with each episode exploring a single artwork in depth. Tamar Avishai, the creator and host, masterfully combines museum visitor impressions with historical and social context and lots of fun anecdotes along the way. — Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager 
Staff Accountant Meg Curley agrees: “the host gives a wonderful audio experience of a painting (usually in a Boston museum) along with some context in a very inviting and charming way. It’s great because it’s already tackled the challenge of how to talk about art that you can’t go see in person. — Meg Curley, Staff Accountant
Listen to The Lonely Palette

 

Read

Book cover for Building and Sustaining a Creative Life

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists
This book by Sharon Louden is a great read and offers advice to working artists and individuals graduating from art school (like me) entering the art world and the realities of being a working artist and how to support yourself through many different paths in life. — Nina Miller, Visitor Assistant
Read Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists

Hito Steyerl, “If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!: Contemporary Art and Derivative Fascisms”
I revisit Hito Steyerl’s legendary essay on art as a refuge for capital in times of social upheaval every time we veer into some new catastrophe. I really wish it would start getting less relevant, not more. — Amelia Menzel, Retail Operations Coordinator
Read Hito Steyerl

 

Play

An still from an animated scene with trees and a structure resembling a space station.

The Outer Wilds 
I’ve been messing around with The Outer Wilds, a cute, quirky video game about exploring a small solar system that gets wiped out and then reset by a supernova every 22 minutes. Each location seems to contain a clue about what’s happening, left behind by a prior civilization. The hope here is that you can find something to break the time loop, stop the supernova, and save all the happy aliens you meet, but it feels like there’s going to be more to it than that. It’s winning awards left and right for its writing and presentation. Not all video games are art, but this one definitely ticks off all the necessary boxes. — Scott Colby, Associate Director of Data Systems and Web Development
Check out The Outer Wilds

 

Drawing of a monster with 5 eyes, mouths, noses, and legs.

Monster by Betsy Gibbons

Roll a Monster
There is a fun drawing game I have been playing over video calls with some of the little people in my life. You draw any shape to be a body shape and then one person rolls a die to determine how many of the following to add:

  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Noses
  • Mouth
  • Hairs (or sections of hair)
  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Tails
  • Horns

 

>It is fun and interactive. You get to see and hear each other on the video call and also have time to focus on your own drawing and share it at the end. There are lots of printable versions of this online, but I have found that all you need is blank paper or cardboard or whatever to draw on and pencils/paper/markers to draw with. — Betsy Gibbons, Director of Teen Programs

 

 


April 15

Listen

Logo for

Logo for

Museum Confidential / Museopunks
From the Philbrook Museum of Art, this podcast focuses on issues relevant to museums and takes you behind the scenes for discussions with museum workers about the most relevant topics of the day. I love that the voices of museum staff are heard, as well as those of artists, archivists, authors, and others who live within the larger scope of the museum field. Similarly, Museopunks explore some of the sector’s most stimulating questions and ideas – and features a local voice from the Peabody Essex Museum, Ed Rodley. —Carrie Van Horn, Associate Registrar
Listen to Museum Confidential
Listen to Museopunks

 

Logo for

The Distance: Coronavirus Dispatches
In a shameless plug, I am listening to The Distance: Coronavirus Dispatches. They are 3-to-5-minutes first-person audio “postcards” on Spotify of stories from around the globe about how people are coping with this crisis, and my daughter is one of the producers. —Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director
Listen to The Distance

 

Logo for

Recording Artists

I’ve been listening to Recording Artists, a podcast using archival interviews with artists from the Getty Archives. The first season is dedicated to women artists, including Eva Hesse, Alice Neel, and Betye Saar, which resonates with me, given the ICA’s collection strength in art by women. The podcast is hosted by Helen Molesworth (an ICA alum), who invites living artists to respond to the archival interviews.  It’s fascinating to hear voices from the past with voices of today. —Eva Respini, Barbara Lee Chief Curator
Listen to Recording Artists 

 

Logo graphic for

Sugar Calling: “Everything Is Always Keep Changing”
While not explicitly about visual art, this debut episode of author Cheryl Strayed’s new podcast Sugar Calling, in which she speaks with the brilliant and deeply humanitarian author George Saunders, offers inspiration to artists of all kinds during this incomparable time. —Kris Wilton, Director of Creative Content and Digital Engagement
Listen to Sugar Calling

 

Look

Instagram image of a hand placing miniature furniture in a realistic-looking gallery space

Shelter In Place Gallery (SIP)
Local artist Eben Haines has used his time indoors to construct a light-filled, free-standing gallery – in his living room. The Shelter in Place Gallery, built at 1:12 scale, is currently showing a “massive” (22” x 14”) canvas by Wilhelm Neusser. If not for the intrusion of a seemingly enormous hand in certain images, one would have a hard time believing you won’t be able to visit this space, regardless of a quarantine. —Shane Silverstein, Performing and Media Arts Coordinator
Visit Shelter In Place

 

Logo for

How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This
How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This? is an online exhibition and platform for the exchange of ideas at this time of crisis, co-curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen. Subscribers (it’s free) receive a daily account about a different artist, a sort of art appetizer to the day. Through this channel, artists are invited to respond to the times through their works and words, each with a different voice and form of expression that resonates during the current crisis. One featured artist is ICA Artist Advisory Council member Mickalene Thomas. —Grace Baljon, Leadership Giving Officer 
Visit How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This

 

Cover of a book titled

Birgit Jürgenssen
Searching for a chair led me to discover my new muse, Birgit Jürgenssen, a Viennese photographer, painter, and sculptor. She would have been 71 this month, though she died of pancreatic cancer in 2003 at the age of 54. Questioning women’s roles in society, her work revolved around the female body and its transformation. Her self-portraits and surrealist shoes are exquisite! —Liz Adrian, Director of Retail
Learn more about Birgit Jürgenssen

 

Learn

 

Logo for

MoMA Online Course: What Is Contemporary Art?
The news can be so cumbersome, and the volume of online art resources so overwhelming in this complex time with everyone rushing to publish virtual content. MoMA’s online course What Is Contemporary Art? (available for free through Coursera) allows us to go back to the basics and enjoy a refresher in the contemporary art we love so deeply. Through articles, analysis of art works, videos by artists in their studios and neighborhoods, and more, I’m excited to keep learning and looking at art. —Grace Baljon, Leadership Giving Officer
Check out What Is Contemporary Art?

Logo for

The Great Courses Plus 
I have been listening to history lectures (making great use of the free trial). I’m currently an expert on Tudor/Stuart England and European History, and working on ancient Egypt. There are also some art history courses and lots of other instructional videos that make me feel productive while I listen to/watch them in the background.
Check out Great Courses Plus 

My other distraction has been audio books through Libby (free loans with a library card). Having an audio book playing in the background helps me focus, and keeps my mind from straying into anxiety-producing territory! —Brittany Eckstrom, Assistant Manager of Visitor Services
Visit Libby

 

Watch

A building reading

The Abbey Road Mic Collection with Sylvia Massey
This is a video about microphones and recording technology that I found fascinating. It is a great example of how meticulous care and precision shape the music we love. Also, Club Passim in Cambridge is streaming concerts pretty much every day. —Daniel Abbugattas, Production Manager, Audio
Watch The Abbey Road Mic Collection

 

A woman standing behind dozens of boxes of Cheez-Its in a large commercial kitchen

Gourmet Makes
Have you ever wondered what it takes to make your favorite snack foods? In Bon Appétit’s YouTube series Gourmet Makes, professional pastry chef (and Harvard alum) Claire Saffitz creates “gourmet” versions of popular treats. Savory and sweet, there’s an episode for everyone (having trouble picking one to start with? Vulture has ranked every episode). While this isn’t directly relevant to my work in contemporary art, as an artist and an educator, I am finding inspiration in Saffitz’s process of reverse engineering. Even more so, I think her embrace of both her successes and her failures is an important lesson for all of us. —Lenny Schnier, Education Department Coordinator
Watch Gourmet Makes

 

Wrestlemania 36’s Firefly Funhouse
But the biggest artistic achievement of the entire month was Wrestlemania 36’s Firefly Funhouse match between Bray Wyatt and John Cena. Wyatt, a Pee-Wee Herman-ish children’s show host who turns into a demonic clown, pulled Cena into his funhouse universe and forced John to confront and then fall victim to his own hubris through vignettes layered with symbolism, deep insider references, and a scathing comparison to a previous face of the company who’s become vilified as a negative influence on the sport overall despite his success. The growing popularity of this creative, cinematic approach to match construction is quickly reshaping the idea of what a professional wrestling show can be. —Scott Colby, Associate Director of Data Systems and Web Development

 

A young woman in a blue and white striped blouse stands in front of a wall of windows in the ICA's Founders Gallery. She smiles slightly and her arms are relaxed at her sides.

Jessie Magyar is the School and Family Programs Manager at the ICA, responsible for planning and carrying out programs including monthly Play Dates, artist installations in the Bank of America Art Lab, school vacation week workshops, gallery games, and weekly drop-in art-making activities.

While the ICA is closed, Jessie’s attention has shifted toward bringing art-making into the home, including weekly activities families can do on their own time with easily available materials, virtual Play Dates with real-time art instruction, and a community-based virtual “quilt.”

These virtual programs have become some of the ICA’s most accessed content, demonstrating how much these online activities are appreciated by families as they take on the role of teachers at home. 

Here Jessie talks about the challenges and unexpected rewards of pivoting family programs from hands-on to online.

Jessie, first of all, can you describe the Virtual Quilt project and how it came about?

The Virtual Quilt project came out of the Threads of Connection Art Lab installation, a collaboration with artist Merill Comeau. As a part of the project, we invited visitors to create a quilt square in the Art Lab with the option of donating their finished piece to our community quilt. We wanted to keep the project going during the ICA’s temporary closure and so we are now asking folks to create one at home using any materials on hand and sharing it with us digitally.

Was this project always meant to have a digital component?

The digital component was only developed after the ICA decided to temporarily close due to the threat of COVID-19. However, by going virtual, we are finding that we now have an extraordinary opportunity to reach new audiences and to engage with our current audiences in a new way. It allows us to stay connected through art, even when we are apart.

One obvious change has been that people now supply their own materials as opposed to using the materials we provided in the Art Lab. This has actually resulted in really interesting, creative pieces, and I think will ultimately provide a unique reflection of the current moment.

What are some of your chief goals or hopes as you move other programming online?

Our primary goals are to stay connected with our families and to continue to provide opportunities for creativity, community, and reflection. We want to provide opportunities for families to stay active and find joy through art making, but also to help make meaning during these unprecedented times. By engaging in our online programs, we hope families feel more connected to themselves, to each other, and to the greater community.

Any silver linings in working in this new way?

It’s interesting because when I started managing family programs in July 2019, one of my primary goals was to develop an engagement plan for family audiences. Prior to the closure, we focused on in-person experiences at the ICA for families. However, in developing digital resources, I’ve now realized how important they can be in establishing family engagement. By providing resources online, we’re able to cast a greater net of opportunities. It provides flexibility and convenience (so important for families!) and opens the door for deeper engagement.

What’s the most challenging part of doing your work remotely?

The most difficult part by far, and I think many families will relate to this, is balancing and creating boundaries between home life and work life. But I also miss making art with all the visitors at the ICA! In my role, I have the unique opportunity to work on programs for teens, school groups, kids, and families, and a large portion of my work is still dedicated to facilitating classes and workshops.

Lastly, how have you been keeping busy and inspired during the quarantine?

My child certainly keeps me busy! At 18 months, it’s been really special to see him develop into a toddler. He helps me keep things in perspective and find joy in the smallest details.

Check out the Virtual Quilt and other hands-on art-making projects

 


ICA Kids and Family programs are supported, in part, by Vivien and Alan Hassenfeld, the Hassenfeld Family Foundation, the Willow Tree Fund, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Raymond T. & Ann T. Mancini Family Foundation.

Alexion logo

“Fase is about the art of choreography, the art of composing movements that I wanted to master so badly as an autodidact.”

Choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s breakthrough came in 1982, at the age of 21, with Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich. For 36 years, she continued to dance the now-iconic piece herself, all the while building a rigorous and celebrated body of work exploring geometry, musical and social structures, and the relationship between music and dance. In 2018, for the first time, De Keersmaeker passed Fase to a new generation of dancers from her company, Rosas, signaling the beginning of a new phase. Its presentation at the ICA marks the company’s first appearance in Boston in more than 30 years.

Here De Keersmaeker discusses the relationship between the past and present of the piece, and the road travelled between both versions, with dramaturg Floor Keersmaeker.

Together with Rosas danst Rosas, Fase is the performance that has been on stage the most of all pieces, and has remained on the program all this time. Now, the time to pass on the choreography to a new generation of dancers seems to have come. Would you mind explaining why Fase is so important to you and to Rosas?

Strictly speaking, Fase is not my first choreography – before that there was Ash (1980) – but it really was a seminal work, showing the first traces of a composition style I was later to make my own. Ash still was an exploration, an attempt to spy out the land. Fase is about the art of choreography, the art of composing movements that I wanted to master so badly as an autodidact. Violin Phase was the starting point for that exercise. When I left for New York to study at the Tisch School of the Arts in 1980, I kept a recording of Steve Reich in my travel sack. During the first months of my studies, I was bent on creating my own dance. I continued to consider this solo as ‘my’ own piece of dance, mainly since it contained all the elements that defined the (now 36-year) road that tracked the tight relationship between dance and music, and the concept of choreography as the art of organizing movements in time and space, where the music determines the time format and the space is divided based on an underlying geometry. Finally, it also speaks to a strongly ‘focal’ use of energy. The vocabulary of movements deployed is highly minimalistic, almost mundane. Turning, jumping, swinging arms… it somewhat resembles the way a child dances. Yet in opposition to the simplicity of movements stands the outspoken energy of its execution. It is that tension I explored further in Rosas danst Rosas. The investment of such a high amount of physical energy in a composition culminates in a discharge that shares a great deal of emotional tension. At the time, that was at odds with the main strands of American minimalistic dance, which were based on a detached, almost mathematical sense of calculation and precision that required little to no personal involvement on the behalf of the dancer. Conversely, and in spite of the very tight structure and formality, dancing Fase has a great physical and – thus also emotional – intensity to it.

With respect to Rosas danst Rosas, you’ve repeatedly claimed that the repetitive and highly structured character of the choreography in question requires a great deal of individual charisma and personality on behalf of the dancer. This seems due to the fact that, despite the choreography’s great uniformity, that’s what renders their performance different. Fase is even more formal and abstract; would it be correct to say that, in this instance, the casting is at least as important as the dancing in order for a successful transfer to take place?

In fact, the piece in question was developed in three stages. In the first, I created Violin Phase, my own solo, in which, naturally, the casting is of great importance. After all, I was working with my own body, writing a choreography by dancing myself, all whilst dancing in the act of creating my own choreography. This double starting point is part of the dance’s DNA, and strongly intertwined with my mode of movement. Come Out was the next part, which I created with Jennifer Everhard. In that case, it was important to have two women, just like in the two subsequent parts, Piano Phase and Clapping Music, which I later wrote with Michèle Anne De Mey. In a way, the movements have become ‘grafted’ onto my body, which at the time was the body of a young woman. In order to come up with a choreographic answer to the repetitive minimal music by Reich, I sought to stretch its visual conformity as much as possible to most adequately demonstrate what was different and what was the similar in the performance. Take Piano Phase, for instance: that dance would have ended up completely different if one were to put a man and a woman next to each other. Perhaps nowadays, at a time when the notion of gender liquidity has become more widespread, it may be old-fashioned to hold on to the fact of the female body with such tenacity, a basic assumption that can (rightfully) be questioned. Yet I do find this physical similarity of two women important. I even take into account the height of dancers and their hairstyles.

You combine the rehearsals to revisit Fase with the rehearsals for a wholly new production. A period of more than thirty years bridges the gap between the two creations. Do you try to keep both activities in strict separation, or is there an interaction between the two that you tend to tolerate, and perhaps even encourage?

The situation definitely creates perspective, and invites reflection. One looks back on those decisive decisions and how one came to make them. At times it is easy to forget how they came about; occasionally, they resurface when re-examining previous performances. That is the process by which ideas are refreshed, after all. I do question myself about the importance of the composition in and of itself, which is a separate question from the dancers who interpret it, whether it’s at the moment of creation itself or the reprisal. I have always said that performances become what they become due to the fact that dancers play such a capital role in the creative process. Still, a situation like this does create an urge for reflection on how a composition can remain intact and be passed on.

Do you feel that with the passing of time the retaking of a repertoire gets easier, or do you experience it like wholly new process every time?

We now have a core group of dancers who have performed five different pieces in the repertoire: Rain, A Love Supreme, Rosas danst Rosas, Zeitigung, and Achterland. Fase is the sixth project. I myself do notice that these dancers have an accumulated history with the work, that they have quite literally incorporated my ‘language’, and that this language gains depth every time it’s taken up again. One begins to share a common ground with those dancers and that is immensely important. But Fase does confront a dancer with specific challenges inherent to the piece itself. The choreography verges on the extreme with its combination of great physical intensity and strict formality, together with the requirement for it literally to be given a divine ‘breath of life’. This is an element that is prone to disintegration, or to a temptation of mechanicality. The right amount of energy should be invested in this piece.

Your choice of music is very diverse, but it also betrays a specific strand of preferences. The work by Steve Reich makes up a large part of it, and of course there is Bach as well. Are there similarities in the way their compositions appeal to you or do you see, from your experience as a choreographer, commonalities in their music?

Although I believe the differences are plenty, their work does exert some strong commonalities. First and foremost, both composers made highly structured music, although Bach is slightly less systematic than Reich. Then there is the presence of a ‘pulse’, meaning there is always an ‘invitation’ to dance. But what seems crucial to me is that the repetitive part in Reich’s music closely resembles something called canon writing. Bach is known as master of the canon and especially as master of the fugue, a music form based on the canon. In fact, the key to fugue is the maximal exploitation of a minimum of material. I believe that is an important principle that the music of Bach and Reich share and from which I, as a choreographer, draw a lot of inspiration.

As an autodidact, my choice to start with Steve Reich may have had something to do with my own sense of insecurity. I literally wanted to take on this piece on step by step, digging through its substance layer by layer. Reich’s minimalistic music was very well suited to that, mainly because of its flexible yet simplistic structure. When I was making Violin Phase I tended to play Bach’s Brandenburg concertos in the studio. That piece of course invites dancing, but at that time I simply wasn’t yet ready to face that complexity. For that, I first needed to acquire more experience.

In Fase you took on the roles of both dancer and choreographer. Is that something you would recommend to other dancers? In other words, do you believe that choreographic practice makes one a better dancer?

No, I do not believe it does. They are two different things, really. While training as a dancer, I tended to start with choreography since I wanted to develop my own style, but that desire had nothing to do with the fact that I also liked to dance. I wanted to come up with my own vocabulary of movements, with its own grammar, rather than embed myself in an existing dance language.

Also, the line dividing choreography and dance has become rather blurry over the last 30-40 years. Today, dancers are typically much more involved in the creative process than they were before, and the two tend to blend into each quite a bit. Nevertheless, the development of a choreographic style does require a variegated approach. It involves shaping movement in time and space and that requires a certain vision. Call it craftsmanship: ‘how do we go about doing this’? And, in the end, social skills are also paramount, precisely because one is working with dancers as ‘people’.

Looking back on your track record, only one other solo (Once) appears alongside Violin Phase, conceived in 2002. Does that imply the development of a different outlook on the relationship between yourself as a choreographer and as a dancer?

No, not really. In fact, after Once I did dance other solos, in Keeping Still and in 3Abschied. It is far from easy to find the time for it in addition to the other work and all other responsibilities. When I was 21 and still studying, my working circumstances were different from how they are now. Beyond that, it has been a very special and valuable experience to continue dancing the same dance over a period of more than 35 years.

Did the wear and tear of time and experience have any influence on your way of dancing Fase? Would you say the piece has undergone a ‘change’, that its substance is no longer the same as that of the première in 1982?

As a choreographer, one tends distinguish the composition from the ‘embodiment’ of that composition itself. I have to say that the current transition – or, the fact that I suddenly find myself standing ‘outside’ the existing choreography and looking at it from a fresh perspective – is a bigger step than any other in the past 36 years. My relationship with Fase has never ceased to evolve; never did there occur a gap or a pause. In quite a literal sense, the piece remained a piece of body. It may well be that the movement has changed en cours de route. In that case, I’m not talking so much about the composition, which remains fixed and set in place. It is the embodiment of that composition that has evolved with me. But now I do feel the time has come for a new chapter.

See Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich September 19–21. 

 

This summer, the ICA debuted a new visual identity conceived and carried out by award-winning designer Abbott Miller and his team at the international design consultancy Pentagram. Timed to the opening of the new ICA Watershed, the new identity strives to communicate ideas of openness, accessibility, and radical welcome embedded in both the new space and the institution’s strategic plan released in 2016.

From founding the multidisciplinary studio Design/Writing/Research to working with museum and corporate clients there and through Pentagram, where he is a partner, to extensive writing and publication projects, Miller has long used design as a way of exploring and interpreting art, architecture, public space, performance, fashion, and design. This deep and varied experience makes him uniquely suited to take on this important reimagining of the ICA’s public face.

At Design/Writing/Research, Miller pioneered the concept of “designer as author,” and he has written extensively about design, including in the 2014 monograph Abbott Miller: Design and Content. Learn more about his celebrated, wide-ranging work there or at pentagram.com.

Miller spoke with the ICA about the aims for the new ICA identity, the particular challenges of museum visual identities, and why he “hates” logos.

In your 2014 book Design and Content you wrote, “I hate logos. …[E]veryone gets obsessed with the logo when they should really be more concerned with how it’s used.” What is the role of design and a logo identity in giving voice to an art institution?

There are a couple of things embedded in that “I hate logos” rant. A “logo” is often invested with both too much importance and too little real estate. There is often a pressure on this graphic mark to try to sum up everything an organization stands for, when in fact it’s part of an ensemble of elements: words, typography, imagery, color, not to mention all of the actual services, things, and people that are represented by that mark. It has an outsized importance because it sometimes has to travel in isolation of all those other elements and still be memorable and meaningful and convey something about the organization. 

You’ve worked with a wide range of ICA staff and constituents in the course of this project. Can you describe how you kick off a project like this?

The process involved the staff and the board: we met over several meetings to define the aspirations of the ICA and what makes the ICA unique, and to understand its role in the lives of its audiences. We had a couple of brainstorming sessions that helped us understand the spirit and tone of the ICA, and we did a full audit of the communications from previous years. That helped to define what the new identity needed to achieve.     

What were your aims for the ICA logo and its context?

Our goal was for the mark to effectively tether itself in people’s minds to the spirit of the ICA and, over time, for it to function metonymically for the whole of the ICA. There are several other contemporary art museums with the acronym ICA (Boston was the first in the United States to be so named), so we also had to consider our visual expression in relation not just to other art museums, but to art museums with the same set of letters! This led us to focus on the typographic expression, and to look for a strong gestalt in the ensemble of the letters. 

You’ve worked with museums including the Guggenheim, the Barnes Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Sigmund Freud Museum, as well as commercial clients like American Express and Harley Davidson. How is designing or branding for an art institution is different from the commercial realm?

Corporate emblems like the American Express blue box or the Harley-Davidson logo have some advantages in having been around for many decades, and having deep exposure in different markets all over the world. Very few art museums can claim so much constancy in their visual expression. One of the founding designers of Pentagram, Alan Fletcher, designed the V&A logo in 1989 and it still looks as good as ever, but that is a real exception. There is generally higher turnover in the world of cultural institutions. That could be because they don’t have the opportunity to become as deeply entrenched as corporate marks.  

There is a major difference in designing for cultural organizations because, with fewer resources and platforms, they have to use every opportunity to speak clearly and effectively to their audiences and they need to establish a tone of voice and personality. The visual quotient is especially high with art museums: much of what we design is really about creating a frame that interacts well with the art that gets put inside of it. Art “brands” and corporate brands need to function well and be consistent, but in the cultural sector you also need to watch out for things feeling overly branded.    

One of the ICA’s aims is to keep artwork at the forefront of its materials, without letting them get too stark. How do you create design that is clean and elegant but still inviting?

We needed an expression for the ICA that was declarative but still inviting, contemporary, and accessible. I think the visual identity we’ve developed allows for the ICA to have more prominence in its messaging about exhibitions: with fewer opportunities to get the word out there, it’s critical for the “authorship” of the ICA to be understood and appreciated. There is a graphic impact and scalability to the mark that allows for it to be a small emblem on a badge or as big as a single floor of the building. I think that range is due to the form being comprised of separate elements that coalesce.  

Institutional identity projects are, by definition, institution-centric. And yet, when an organization chooses to work with a designer, they’re choosing their point of view. How do you balance your own vision with that of the client?

It might be a traditional metaphor, but it’s sort of like portraiture: you can see the sensibility of the painter or photographer in the finished piece, but the portrait has to ultimately convey the personality of the subject. There should be some initial affinity between the organization and the designer, but the goal is to give an expression to the place that feels true to the personality of the client and gives them a visual language for all of their needs. 

Learn more about the thinking and work behind the ICA’s new identity in the video below.

Artful ways to spend your days: art, events, and fun for you, your family, and friends all around Boston. 

  • Palehound w/ Oompa, Melissa Lozada-Oliva at The Sinclair
    Fri, Mar 16 | 8–11:30 PM
    THE SINCLAIR, 52 cHURCH sT, cAMBRIDGE
    The sophomore album from the Boston trio Palehound, A Place I’ll Always Go, is a frank look at love and loss, cushioned by indelible hooks and gently propulsive, fuzzed-out rock. Catch them with the incredible Oompa, a nationally-renowned, Boston-born, poet, educator, and lyricist, and Melissa Lozada-Oliva, a poet and educator living in New York!

    Can you say Friyay?

  • ICA After 5: Crochet Soiree
    Fri, Mar 16 | 5–8 PM
    Grab a hook and join the party – veteran and newbie crocheters welcome! Explore the new installment of the ICA Collection: Entangled in the Everyday, and get inspired. Then learn the basics of crochet (or bring your own project!) and start your masterpiece.
    Free with museum admission

  • Closing Reception Boston Does Boston XI
    Fri, Mar 16 | 6–8 PM
    PROOF GALLERY, 516 EAST 2ND STREET, SOUTH BOSTON
    This year, in the eleventh Boston Does Boston, six artists sense an equilibrium of wills — a latent restlessness. (A document) a picture (the picture?) Finally, an image on the verge — something alert- work toward it.
    Last Chance

  • Let’s Shoot Boston x Boston Girl Collective Mixer
    Sat, Mar 17 | 12–3 PM
    WAREHOUSE XI, 11 SANBORN COURT, SOMERVILLE
    a community networking event focused on the womxn of our community. They will be taking over Warehouse XI, a creative event space where people will come together for an afternoon of speed dates, a community photography project, and open conversation and laughs. Members of LSB, BGC, and new friends are all welcome.
    Mix, mingle, collaborate + create!

  • Members Bring a Friend for Free Weekend
    Sat, Mar 17–Sun, Mar 18 | 10 AM–4 PM
    Attention members! Did you know you can bring a friend for free for the opening weekend of every new exhibition? The weekend of March 17 to 18, be among the first to see the ICA’s new collection exhibtion Entangled in the Everyday. This exhibition presents major works that showcase artists’ engagement and entanglement with the everyday. Interest in common materials and quotidian subjects has been a defining theme of artistic practice in the 20th century, inspiring Cubist collage, found sculpture, and the widespread embrace of photography. Take advantage of this great benefit and introduce your museum to friends and family!
    Bring your BFF

  • Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition Featuring Rez Abbasi + Dan Weiss
    Sun, Mar 18 | 7:30 PM
    With Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Rez Abbasi on guitar, and Dan Weiss on tabla, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition creates a mesmerizing brand of jazz blended with eastern Indian roots music. The vibrant presence of Indian rhythmic and melodic elements is supercharged in a modern improvisational framework born of the New York jazz scene.
    Don’t miss this fiery blend

  • Opening Night Juan Obando: Full Collabs
    Fri, Mar 16 | 7–10 PM
    DISTILLERY GALLERY, 516 EAST 2ND STREET, SOUTH BOSTON
    Full Collabs showcases a new body of work by Obando exploring this newfound landscape through app development, photo-installation, sculpture, and video. This exhibition proposes an immersive reflection on the circular logic of capitalism, the closed loops of ideology, and the tensions between public and private signaling modeled by digital media.
    See It First

  • Get Cozy + Explore Our Collection
    Dive into the ICA’s collection from the comfort of your coziest spot. 
    Get your art on

  • The Society of Arts + Crafts
    100 Pier 4 Boulevard, Suite 200, Boston,
    Visit our new neighbors and check out their current exhibitions, shop, or learn more about CraftBoston. The mission of the Society of Arts and Crafts is to support excellence in crafts by encouraging the creation, collection, and conservation of the work of craft artists and by educating and promoting public appreciation of fine craftsmanship.
    Get crafty

  • Seaport Beer Run
    Sundays | 10:30 AM
    Harpoon Brewery
    Starting and finishing at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston’s Seaport District, this 6.5-mile guided running tour takes runners at an easy pace through historic sights including the Old North Church and the final resting place of beer brewer and patriot Samuel Adams.
    Brews + views