“Having a physical MICA home in East Baltimore allows us to be more than an anchor institution; it allows us to experience and learn how the creation of art can influence neighborhoods from the inside out.”
Kristy Taylor, MICA PLACE Program Manager
Located in East Baltimore, MICA PLACE links art, culture, and education with the community and beyond.
August 2010 marked perhaps the College’s strongest initiative yet to integrate community engagement into its academic programming. In partnership with East Baltimore Development, Inc., the College renovated the 108-year-old former St. Wenceslaus School lower building and transformed it into MICA PLACE (Programs Linking Art, Culture, and Education). The $1.3 million upgrade was made possible with support from the Rouse Company Foundation and a MICA trustee.
Located in economically challenged East Baltimore, the 24,000-square-foot building houses MICA graduate programs that have community engagement at their core, such as the MFA in Community Arts and MFA in Social Design programs. The bottom floors of the Collington Avenue building house galleries, computer labs, classrooms, and studios, while the upper floors house apartments for graduate students. This unique construct is designed to ensure that students listen and learn from area residents while they live among them.
A front-page story in the Baltimore Sun previewed the building under the banner “The Art of Activism.” In that vein, academic work in the building involves collaboration with residents, organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies that promote healthy neighborhoods, the well-being of vulnerable populations, and community and social leadership. Kristy Taylor, a former community liaison for the City of Baltimore Mayor’s Office on Neighborhoods, joined MICA’s Office of Community Engagement as MICA PLACE program manager.
Though the programming based at MICA PLACE is largely informed by the East Baltimore community, the impact of that programming will be global. The programs strive not only to create models for social impact through creative excellence, but also to train transformative artists and designers from around the world who will go forth and push populations, governments, businesses, and communities to reach for the greater good.
Collaborations with community partners have shown in ever increasing ways that art and design partnerships can produce real results in a short time and lead to the development of models that can be built upon for the long term. Already, students working from MICA PLACE are engaged with nearby middle school students and after school programs. Community arts workshops and exhibits featuring audio and visual arts have been hosted there. Public discussions with artists have shone a spotlight on issues like real estate development and resident displacement. A Community Arts Partnership student hosted a workshop that sought to help revive the Eastern European tradition of painting window screens for decorations, which drew on the area’s historic residential population of immigrants from that part of the world. Perhaps most notably, elementary and high school students can be found collaborating with college students and their instructors on any given day.