Dominic Willsdon announced on Wednesday that he is stepping down from his position as executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“I have accepted a position as executive director of an international film organization based in Los Angeles,” the art curator and educator revealed in a letter emailed to supporters. The details of that new position will be revealed on Dec. 4, he added. He will remain at the ICA until January.
Willsdon, a native of the United Kingdom who received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Essex, assumed his role at the modern art museum, as well as his position as associate professor of art history at the university, in late 2018. He had formerly been curator of education and public practice at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and, among other positions, served as curator of public programs at the Tate Modern from 2000-2005.
"Over its first five years, the ICA has become a portal to a world of new art and ideas for a diverse, rising generation of Richmonders and VCU students," he wrote in his letter. "It is hard to leave the ICA and Richmond at this time. I have learned more about culture and society over these five years than at any equivalent period of my life. This experience has shaped me deeply."
Willsdon took the helm from interim ICA director Joe Seipel, VCU School of the Arts' dean emeritus, after original founding ICA director Lisa Freiman stepped down three months before the museum's April 2018 opening. During his five-year tenure, Willsdon oversaw a heady, challenging mix of modern art, particularly from African and Latin American artists.
Under his leadership, the Institute was named one of the top 10 new museums in America by USA Today, and The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine and ArtNet, among others, praised its often edgy exhibits and installations. In June, Willsdon announced that the ICA would bestow an annual $40,000 arts award starting next year, the Common Prize for Art and Education, made possible by a $500,000 gift from Richmond arts supporter Pamela Kiecker Royall.
"VCUarts is beginning the process of identifying an interim executive director and will announce that appointment in the coming weeks," says Michael R. Porter, associate vice president for public relations at VCU. "The school will also be conducting an international search for the next permanent executive director."
Willsdon did not respond to inquiries for further comment.