ICA’s ‘Extra Credit’ classes introduce public to contemporary art

Penn’s Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) is offering a free educational series in June and July in an effort to demystify modern art and attract repeat visitors to the museum.

With the name of “Extra Credit,” the classes will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on eight consecutive Sundays, June 4 through July 30. Admission to the ICA, located at 118 S. 36th St., is always free and open to the public.

“What I hear often is, ‘Why is that art? I don’t get this. I don’t understand,’” says Maori Karmael Holmes, the ICA director of public engagement. “We are hoping the series will provide an entry point for people into contemporary art, and will spur their interest to see more shows, even if they don’t know the artist or the work.”

The classes cover a range of topics, from the definition of contemporary art to issues of race, feminism, and social justice. The courses also cover different mediums, including paintings and sculptures, but also videos and performance art. Funding is provided by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The instructors are working artists, professors, administrators, and curators. Sharon Hayes, an associate professor of fine arts at PennDesign, is teaching a class on video art, and Kate Kraczon, the Laporte Associate Curator at the ICA and a Penn alumna, is teaching a course on feminism in art.

“The work that goes into the shows is deeply based in research, which isn’t always clear to our visitors,” Holmes says. “We are hoping these courses will create a baseline of knowledge so people get a sense of what contemporary art is and understand the larger history.”

On June 4, Robert Blackson, director of Temple Contemporary at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and Kelli Morgan, a scholar, curator, author, lecturer, and teacher, will teach “What Isn’t Contemporary Art? A Class to Consider the Limits of Our Time.” They will begin this introductory class by exploring multiple definitions of contemporary art.

Hayes instructs “Performance in Contemporary Art: On Stage, In Museums and on the Streets” on June 11. This course will make a quick pass through the unruly history of performance art and then focus on a few performance works to help understand what performance is and why artists utilize it.

Kraczon, who has organized more than 20 exhibitions since joining the ICA in 2008, presents “Whose Feminism?” on June 18. She will explore feminism in the art of the last 50 years via ICA’s exhibition history, which reveals both prescience and limitations that reflect contemporary debates around the term.

An artist, writer, and organizer committed to documenting and supporting artists and communities of color, Anthony Romero will teach “Is the Art World Racist and What to Do About It?” on June 25. The course lays out a critical historical framework for thinking about race and racialized practices within contemporary art institutions and organizations while proposing alternative strategies, as well as policy and structural changes that might aid programmatic initiatives in creating a more equitable and inclusive art world.

For more information, including course descriptions, July courses, and instructor biographies, view the Extra Credit brochure.

ICA Extra Credit