Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) is officially changing its name to Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art.

The announcement came at a virtual press conference with partners and media earlier today.

“The name [GRACE]… really no longer align and communicate about who we are,” said Robert Goudie, Chair of the Board of Directors of the non-profit community arts center. “When we did our branding exercise internally, words we came up with to describe who we are were ‘provocateur, ‘risk-taker,’ ‘disruptor,’ ’emergent.’ Those are not words… people think about with ‘GRACE,” which is a more specific term, classic, timeless.”

The change was also motivated by the fact that audiences have grown beyond the Reston community. The center’s largest audience on social media, is D.C., Reston, and New York City.

The new name comes from the term for rock fragments ejected into the air by an erupting volcano.

“For us, tephra is representative of that combustibility of the creative process,” said Jaynelle Hazard, Executive Director and Curator. “And the generation of ideas that the arts can provide.”

Founded in 1974, the non-profit houses its gallery and art space at Reston Town Center. Known for its modern and contemporary art, the center is also the long-time host of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. After being first postponed and, then, canceled in 2020, it’s back on for September 2021.

It’s been a year of change for the nearly five-decade-old arts center. In January 2020, its executive director and curator announced her resignation to take on a similar job in the District. In March, Hazard was named the new executive director and immediately had to confront challenges brought on by the pandemic. This includes exhibit cancellations, transitioning to online, and fundraising challenges.

For now, the gallery will remain closed until further notice. But exhibits are expected to open on Feb. 27 with at least a virtual option for viewing.

Additionally, Tephra staff says that the organization will not be moving from Reston or its current space in Reston Town Center. Particularly, with the Reston Town Center Metro station still scheduled to open later this year.

“We are not leaving Reston,” says Goudie. “We were born here. We live here and will continue to live here. We are not going anywhere.”

Full press release below:

Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE), a 501c3 non-profit located in Reston, Virginia, has announced a significant rebrand, introducing the organization as Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA). The repositioning emerged as the institution’s programs, audience, and impact continued to evolve over the past several years, and the original name and acronym no longer aligned with the organization’s reach and vision.

Tephra ICA is a non-profit, non-collecting institution committed to promoting innovative contemporary art and thinking. Leading with curiosity and care, the organization is a catalyst, generator, and advocate for visual arts. The institution is devoted to celebrating artists and values the power of art to broaden and shift perspectives, start difficult conversations, and consider alternative ideas.

“Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art reflects my vision of fostering meaningful dialogue, contextualizing artists’ work in the historical canon, and presenting critically engaged, experimental practices,” said Executive Director and Curator Jaynelle Hazard who was hired in March 2020. “The rebrand was well-underway when I joined the team last year, and I am now thrilled to publicly share this collaborative work and bring it to the finish line. What initially attracted me to GRACE, was its drive to continue expanding its presence and impact both regionally and nationally. I look forward to our growth and introducing forthcoming initiatives that will advance the organization.”

The word “tephra,” matter ejected from geothermal eruptions landing upon, nourishing, and changing the surrounding environment, emphasizes the institution’s belief in the combustibility of creativity and generation of ideas and growth that the arts can provide.

“A name change has been considered in the past, but, given how we and the region have changed and continue to grow, the timing now just felt right,” said Robert Goudie, the Board Chair. “We had terrific participation in the process from our supporters and partners, excellent professional guidance, and importantly have the unanimous support of our board and staff for this new name. We are only able to do this thanks to the incredible foundation put in place these past 47 years. The new name is as much a testament to our legacy as to our future.” Initial discussions for the rebrand began in 2018 with a series of conversations held with staff, supporters and partners, and board members working in tandem with external naming and visual design companies, as well as the organization’s pro bono outside counsel, DLA Piper.

Ruth Abrahams Design, the institution’s new visual identity is a balance between classic and contemporary, with a vibrant green accent color representing growth and regeneration. The logo’s design element illustrates a shift, signifying a change – a frame for a new way of looking, or a change in dimension.

Recent programs have made significant strides in gearing up for the organization’s next chapter, including the installation of the monumental, 50-ft, steel sculpture, Buoyant Force, by artist Sue Wrbican, located in Reston Town Square Park; building institutional partnerships such as the Moira Dryer exhibitions in concert with The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.; and the forthcoming Laurel Nakadate exhibition and programming in conjunction with George Mason University.

Tephra ICA’s first headlining exhibition under the new brand will be a solo show with Puerto Rican and German light and space artist, Gisela Colón. The mutable, changeable qualities of Colón’s work nods towards an energy of constant fluctuation and growth. It is emblematic of the direction Tephra ICA is headed and reflects the institution’s values in adding to cross-cultural dialogue by contributing to the expanded perspectives of our time.

Photo courtesy of Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art

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