Come this September, San Diego will be home to a new arts institution at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has slashed the budgets (and workforces) of museums across the United States. On March 14, the San Diego Art Institute and Lux Art Institute announced that they would be merging to form the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), San Diego.
On September 24, the new ICA will open in both of its parent organizations’ former spaces: In Balboa Park, the 70-year-old home of the former San Diego Art Institute will hold the ICA’s site-specific pieces and exhibitions. The 6,000-square-foot campus will become “ICA Central,” while the 6-acre campus of the Lux Art Institute in Encinitas will become ICA North and display outdoor work. That offshoot will focus more on education and will contain spaces for artist residencies, workshops, and classes, but will still show solo and group exhibitions as well.
The new institution is taking an environmental bent towards its curatorial mission (as well as inclusivity to the multilingual and diverse population of San Diego County).
“One of our core values of the new organization is to be relevant,” Andrew Utt told the Del Mar Times. Utt, who has headed the Lux Art Institute since June of 2019, will serve as the ICA’s executive director and oversee a board of directors. “And to be relevant, you’re constantly aware of what’s happening in the world around us, whether that’s migration or social justice or environment.”
Mexican artist Gabriel Rico, who was trained as an architect and now blends found natural and manmade objects to build conceptual pieces, will open ICA Central with a massive solo exhibition in September, accompanied by outdoor pieces, also from Rico, planned for ICA North. Rico told The Art Newspaper that his inaugural show will explore “a social practice project with the community of San Diego and Tijuana.”
Both originator institutions were battered by the pandemic, and the merger was made possible thanks to a $140,000 grant from the nonprofit Sahm Family Foundation, which is focused on supporting the visual and performing arts in San Diego. The ICA will roll into its opening with $1.6 million in hand, and admission will be free to help increase access to all San Diegans. Reportedly no staff from either Lux or the San Diego Art Institute will be let go once the merger is complete.
The Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego, is currently in the process of setting up its website and will post the full slate of upcoming exhibitions in the months to come.