Stuart Cooper ’72 (photography) has a challenge for all MICA alumni. No matter what form it takes, he wants all alumni to give back to the College in some way—make a small financial gift, donate a painting to be sold to raise scholarship funds, or volunteer to help promote a campus event. He wants all alumni to know that, in addition to the collective dollar amount of alumni donations, the sheer number of alumni who make donations of any amount says something important about the College. He wants everyone interested in supporting MICA and parents thinking about sending their children here to know that there are thousands of people who care intensely about the College.
Cooper, an accomplished filmmaker and photographer, funded a scholarship that provides monies to very needy students who could not otherwise afford to study at MICA. He believes that giving back to the College is not just a nice thing to do. From his perspective, alumni should take it personally. Because they will always be connected to their alma mater, he said, they have a vested interest in helping it reach its full potential. Just as the reputation of alumni has bearing on MICA’s prestige, he reasons that the reputation of the College in turn impacts the reputation of the alumnus.
For the 1972 MICA graduate in photography, his experience at the College was a transformative period in his growth as an artist and a world citizen. First of all, Cooper said, he simply had fun at MICA. Moreover, “there was an energy that existed at MICA,” he said. “You were allowed to stretch the boundaries.”
Cooper credits MICA with helping him learn how to work cooperatively with others on a large project—perfect training, he said, for his future motion picture projects. He also fondly recalls his interaction with faculty members and influential artists, people who taught him to think outside the box and not just accept what he was told. He believes that almost all alumni can trace a boost in their career from their association with MICA. Especially for recent graduates, Cooper says, association with MICA, “legitimized you as an artist.”
Cooper is particularly excited about MICA’s recent focus on community engagement, especially its work in Baltimore’s Station North area, not far from where he went to high school. He thinks that, literally and figuratively, MICA’s presence is a “light in the darkness.”
“To me, artists should always be in the lead in terms of ideas and moving forward,” Cooper said. He recognizes the strides the College has made in training artists and designers to be leaders in all segments of society, but he knows that financial support is needed for continued growth.
“If alumni are true to what their ideals were when they left the institution, they can still support the ability of art to make a difference by giving to MICA.”
As Cooper said, MICA is “a miraculously interesting creative adventure.”