Monday, July 26, 2010

A visit to ICCA (International Center for Contemporary Art)

Last week I was invited by the Fulbright Educational Advising Center (FEAC) in Bucharest to give a presentation on Graduate Admissions to U.S. Universities. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the Center for a good 5 years now: not only do they give Fulbright scholarships yearly, but they are an excellent free resource for any Romanian student or scholar interested in post-secondary and graduate programs in the US. Needless to say I successfully benefited from their wisdom and study materials when I was accepted at Duke University back in 2005, and I am more than happy to give back to the Center and their public.

While in Bucharest I visited the ICCA (International Center for Contemporary Art), where I was graciously shown around by its longtime director, Irina Cios. In 2010 Ms. Cios has received a CEC ArtsLink Fellowship and she will be working in the New York City area this fall, researching the effects of public art and artistic practices on communities.

So what is ICCA and how does it fit into the Bucharest art scene? Founded in 1999 in Bucharest the ICCA works as a resource center, creative lab and artistic platform and its mission is to promote Romanian contemporary art locally and internationally. It is located at the Ark , the old Commodity Exchange building in the Rahova-Uranus community, adjacent to the infamous House of the People/Romanian Parliament building. The original 1898 building has been recently revamped and turned into a creative industries and artistic expression outlet, where you can find companies from diverse sectors such as architecture, urban planning, multimedia, design and public relations.

For me one of the most exciting tools at ICCA is the documentary resource space, which boasts a database of Romanian artist (biographies, artist texts, interviews) as well as a sizable (over 3000 publications) library focused on Central and Eastern Europe and a multimedia archive. Although targeting mostly Romanian audiences, you can find quite a few publications, documents and DVDs also translated in English. Established in 1993, the resource space is one of the very few archives on art produced in this region, roughly from the 1950s to the present that is available to the general public in Romania. I cannot emphasize enough how important independent resource libraries are to young professionals in the arts and to the artists themselves, as documentation on contemporary art and exhibitions is virtually unavailable in traditional libraries or universities in this country. Although in the past 10 years or so there have been exponentially more art centers and artists to have websites in Romania, the situation before 1989 is hardly documented or available online. For international professionals interested in Romanian art, the situation is even more dire as only in the past years have these artists and centers been made bilingual (English & Romanian). But my blog is part of a growing effort to change that!

So drop by the ICCA on your next trip to Bucharest and take a look at the wealth of information they have, especially if you're interested in conceptual art, performance, new media or experimental art in Romania. Make sure you email them before hand to schedule your visit and tell them what you're interested in. The friendly ICCA team will be more than happy to assist in your research!

Another great reason to check out the center is the international artistic residency program they have been running since 2007, initiated by Irina Cios. The residency targets emerging artists and art professionals from Romania and abroad and takes place in a studio designed especially for this purpose in the Ark Space. So if you've been looking for an opportunity to do research in Romania, whether your an artist or working in an arts-related field, drop the ICCA team a line! They are always looking for bright, enthusiastic people to bring to Bucharest. You will learn from them as much as they will from you and you will be contributing to one of the most dynamic emerging art communities in Europe.

In addition to all these wonderful opportunities, the ICCA organizes exhibits, conferences and workshops in the ARK-1 space, also located in the Ark, through which they promote a multicultural and interdisciplinary perspective. What I really appreciated about their projects is that they are socially engaged and community oriented; you can get a sense of the civic values their collaborative efforts have emphasized over the years here.

With that, I leave you to ponder on the role of art institutions, both locally and internationally.What do you think about the dialogue between different cultural organizers and participants in your community? How do they make a difference ?


  1. I wrote something earlier but it didn't go through!

  2. Sorry about that! Can you post it again?

  3. I was going to say that there are actual very few art institutions in this city (shock), but the state has stepped in in a very...eyebrow-raising...way. The pseudo-dictator of Utter Pradesh state now spends billions of dollars erecting statues of Indian wildlife and low-caste figures to honor, well, low castes. It's all a ploy to garner votes and is a huge waste of money, but is interesting nonetheless. Look up "Mayawati."