phICA: A Community for Contemporary Art in Phoenix

One new idea for every day in 2011. We're talking big, small, local, international, in action and on the drawing board. Here's today's -- what's yours?

Some ideas take years to gel.

Such is the case with the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art (phICA), a nonprofit organization which aims to "complement other regional cultural institutions while differentiating itself through collaboration and community partnerships and by offering new portals of entry for enjoying, understanding, and interpreting contemporary art."

Translation: phICA has no space, carries no collection, and instead focuses solely on programming. It's what the founders call a "lean and mean" opportunity for contemporary artists to learn, grow, and contribute to the contemporary art scene in Phoenix.

The organization is the brainchild of art curator and investor Ted Decker, Roosevelt Row and eyelounge founder Greg Esser, and graphic designer Eddie Shea, who met to discuss an experimental contemporary opportunity in 2007.

Four years later, phICA's launching with an exhibition by Laerte Ramos, a Brazil-based artist, at Modified Arts on March 18.

"In the local contemporary arts scene, there's still a gap between what happens at collecting art institutions like Phoenix Art Museum and SMoCA and cooperative galleries like eyelounge," says Esser, who's also the Director of Civic Art at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. "It's like the difference between a museum and a theater in that phICA's providing the stage and support for exhibitions and activities without having to worry about maintaining the collections after the show."

According to Decker, phICA is also looking into residency opportunities and community partnerships with galleries, museums, and un-leased spaces, which shouldn't be too hard to find in Phoenix.

phICA's first exhibition will feature Ramos' ceramic casts of guns that meet the manufacturing specifications of children's toys. According to the show's written statement, Ramos hopes to portray the "ambiguity between the way the objects appear and their essence, between words and things, and in name and form." The show's title, Arma Branca, is Portuguese for weapons that are not fired such as swords or daggers.

Ramos' work will join local artist Jon Haddock's Isometric Screen Shots -- a series of cultural and historical images in a computer-game style. 

The opening reception for the concurrent shows will be at Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt St. from 6 to 9 p.m.. For more information, check out the phICA and Modified Arts websites.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton