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Institute of Contemporary Arts records, 1927-circa 1985, bulk 1947-1967

Institute of Contemporary Arts (Washington, D.C.)

Collection Information

Size: 36.0 linear feet

Summary: The records of the Washington, D.C. arts and educational organization, Institute of Contemporary Arts, measure 36 linear feet and date from 1927-circa 1985, with the bulk of the material spanning the organization's active years, 1947-1967. The collection documents the arts and cultural programming organized by the ICA through correspondence, artists' files, program and exhibition files, administrative and financial records, printed materials and photographs. Also found are administrative, student, and teacher records of the ICA school; records of the Fine Arts Committee of the People-to-People Project; and some personal papers of the ICA's founder, Robert Richman.
Robert Richman's professional and personal relationships with numerous artists and writers which the ICA hosted in D.C. are documented in Correspondence and Artists' Files. Correspondence files include letters from Joseph and Anni Albers, Alfred Barr, e.e. cummings, Alexander Giampietro, Naum Gabo, Walter Gropius, Erick Hawkins, Duncan Phillips, Hans Richter, Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy, and William Carlos Williams. Also found is correspondence with benefactors, board members, and arts organizations regarding exhibitions and administrative details; and with teachers and the Veteran's Administration regarding school issues.
Artists' Files contains mostly incoming and outgoing correspondence, but also found are biographies, exhibition printed materials, handwritten notes, newspaper clippings and scattered portrait photographs. Of interest are files on Aaron Copland, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, Wojciech Fangor, Nadine Gordimer, Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, Janheinz Jahn, Kathleen Raine, and Sir Herbert Read.
In addition to Correspondence and Artists' Files, materials regarding ICA's programming, such as correspondence with artists and galleries, press releases, shipping records, financial records, printed materials, photographs, inventory and price lists, are found in ICA Program Files.
The ICA and Robert Richman collaborated with numerous arts and international exchange organizations to organize exhibitions, performances, symposium, and to host visiting artists. Materials regarding such collaborations are found in Organizations and includes correspondence, scattered financial records, notes, and printed materials such as bulletins, brochures, schedules, reports, and press releases. This series also includes substantial material related to the Fine Arts Committee of the People-to-People Program, an international exchange initiative of President Dwight D. Eisenhower begun in 1956.
The school's records include correspondence, notebooks (attendance books), teacher files documenting classes and grades, extensive student files and student enrollment cards, mailing lists, class cards, and notes for classes taught by Robert Richman.
Administrative and Financial Files include accounting and banking records, budgets, founding documents, fundraising records, grants records, mailing lists, membership lists, and Meridian House Foundation records.
ICA's programs are also documented by comprehensive printed materials arranged by ICA seasons, 1947-1967. Printed materials include program calendars, exhibition announcements, invitations, membership forms, and press releases. Also found are newspaper clippings and three oversized clippings scrapbooks.
Photographs include black and white photographs and negatives of people, most of whom are unidentified. Robert Richman's personal papers includes personal correspondence, correspondence related to "New Republic," handwritten and typed writings, some bills, and his curriculum vitae.
Unrepresented in this collection are records of ICA's ICONART Collection (Contemporary Arts Archives), an archive of films and tapes of artists' performances, lectures and events held by ICA.

Biographical/Historical Note

Institute of Contemporary Arts (founded 1947; closed 1967) was an arts organization and educational institute in Washington, D.C. Founded by poet Robert Richman, who came to Washington, D.C. in 1947. Devoted to bringing culture to the nation's capital, the school's philosophy was based on Sir Herbert Read's "Education Through Art." Many of the exhibitions and programs were held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.


The Institute of Contemporary Arts records were donated by Maida Richman, the wife of the ICA's founder, Robert Richman, in 1986.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collection Care Preservation Fund.