The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) was founded in 1948 to provide a conduit for the avantgarde within culture, and now is the foremost forum of its kind in the UK, promoting presentations, discourse and debate within contemporary art and culture. Prime movers in the formation of the ICA were the surrealist painter Sir Roland Penrose and the poet and critic Sir Herbert Read, who became the first President. The agenda was made clear when the first exhibition on ‘40 Years of Modern Art’ opened in 1948, Herbert Read noting that ‘such is our ideal—not another museum, another bleak exhibition gallery, another classical building in which insulated and classified speci-mens of a culture are displayed for instruction, but an adult play-centre, a workshop where work is a joy, a source of vitality and daring experiment’.
   The ICA embraces a number of media including exhibitions, performance, experimental music, new bands, independent film and video, literary events and conferences on cultural and scientific issues. Located in an imposing John Nash designed Regency terrace on the Mall, the complex comprises two art galleries, a cinema, cinematheque and seminar rooms. The mission statement today is decidedly cutting edge and pluralistic, with the avowed aim of involving all people from all backgrounds in the exploration of new ideas (attempting to rebut claims of elitism); it also seeks to challenge orthodoxy in the arts, be a place of interaction, and above all provoke debate. Determined to increase its penetration, an attempt has been made to broaden its educative function. ICA Education was created in 1991 (now ICA Interaction), with student placements and internships and a series of discussions to develop new audiences and foster more audience participation. One of its great strengths is its constant self re-evaluation and a critical approach to its work; the ICA is constantly looking for different arenas and methods by which the aims of the ICA might be better served. Additional private funding through sponsorship is being secured and new areas and ideas are constantly being utilized. Confines of space have meant that a move from the Mall is being considered and new sites are being courted in order that the ICA can continue to fulfil its mission statement and maintain its reputation for originality, vitality and a ‘spirit of discovery’.
   See also: Arts Council; painting

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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