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New Performance Space

MICA has announced that the “black box” performance space in the College’s new student life and residence center, The Gateway, will be named BBOX, in honor of Betty Cooke ’46 and Bill Steinmetz ’50.

Posted 05.31.08 by MICA Media Relations

MICA has announced that the "black box" performance space in the College's new student life and residence center, The Gateway, will be named BBOX, in honor of Betty Cooke '46 and Bill Steinmetz '50. The influential Baltimore-based designers have made a $1.5 million gift towards the operating endowment for The Gateway, slated to open in August 2008. An additional gift from Cooke is establishing an endowment to fund the William O. Steinmetz '50 Designer-in-Residence Award to bring visiting designers to the College each year. Cooke and Steinmetz, former MICA faculty members, are credited with introducing the state of the art in contemporary design to the Baltimore/Washington region through THE STORE LTD, a flagship retailer at Baltimore's Village of Cross Keys since 1965, and still an important locus of design culture.

Fittingly, both the name and graphic identity for the new performance space emerged from collaborative brainstorming by Cooke, Steinmetz, and internationally renowned designer Abbott Miller of Pentagram about how to communicate visually the concept of "Betty and Bill Black Box." Miller, who has also been a faculty member at MICA, observed that "the name grew out of the visual design process. It emerged from our conversation and the sketches from our first meeting. The visual design was very much informed by Betty and Bill." The BBOX logo offers a distinctive and striking graphic identity for a space that the College plans to make an important venue for contemporary experimental performance by MICA students, performances and presentations by internationally renowned artists, and for a wide array of alumni and community events.

Cooke and Steinmetz have been active volunteers and donors at MICA for many years. Both have served on, and Steinmetz has chaired, the College's National Alumni Council, Steinmetz is a longtime trustee, and both have received the College's Alumni Award. According to MICA president Fred Lazarus, "Betty and Bill have had an unbelievable impact on this College. As faculty, they helped shape our design program, and they have been extremely generous donors. This current honor reflects the fact that they are also perhaps the most consistent consumers of the world-class contemporary cultural and arts programming MICA offers. They are active in the creative life and interested and engaged with contemporary trends in art and design. It's very fitting that this new space be named for them."

Cooke and Steinmetz each taught at MICA for decades while establishing their national reputation as Cooke Steinmetz Designers and Consultants. Betty Cooke has also gained an international reputation as one of the finest designers of contemporary jewelry. Her work has been exhibited in and is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Arts and Design, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Musée des beaux-arts de Montreal, and Walker Art Center, and has received numerous awards, including, twice, the prestigious DeBeers Diamond Today Award. According to Steinmetz, "We introduced MICA students to contemporary design because we were so involved in it. It's exciting to see the current developments in design at MICA." Cooke added, "It has been fantastic to see and be involved in the thoughtful evolution of MICA's campus, and we were immediately attracted to the idea of supporting an interdisciplinary, experimental, multimedia performance space in The Gateway."

Events planned for the inaugural season of BBOX include MICA's Mondays at Noon lecture series featuring internationally renowned artists and critics-recent visitors have included Jeff Koons '76; cabaret evenings in conjunction with a major retrospective of the work of conceptual and performance artist Laure Drogoul '81, first winner of Baltimore's $25,000 Sondheim Prize; productions of new works by MICA's Playwriting Club; a major national symposium on African-American art which will bring to campus some of the world's most noted scholars in the field; the student-curated Coffeehouse series and annual student talent Showcase; and a diverse array of student-focused parties, concerts, and dances, as well as performance components of the Commencement 2009 Exhibition.

Ray Allen, MICA's vice president for academic affairs and provost, noted that the BBOX performance space is an essential resource for a visual art college. He observed: "The work of MICA's faculty and students has been taking on an increasingly wide and eclectic range of forms, and it has complex presentational requirements. BBOX will fulfill MICA's longstanding need for a performance space that can be used by faculty and students from all areas of our curriculum to engage in creative, cross-disciplinary exploration of the possibilities of time-based art."

BBOX will provide a flexible space for performances and public events. The informal, flexible format of the space, which can accommodate an audience of 240 in traditional theater-style seating, and the totally black interior of the space, make BBOX a valuable counterpoint to Falvey Hall in Brown Center, which seats 525 and was designed primarily as a venue for film and digital art. BBOX is 58 by 58 feet in size, with flexible, movable seats and risers to accommodate a wide range of performance configurations. Its technical equipment includes a HD LCD projector and retractable screen; multi-channel digital sound system and 96-dimmer lighting system with computerized light board; and a tension wire grid 19' above the performance space to accommodate lights, cameras, and other equipment. BBOX will be available for rental by outside artistic groups and events, but for the majority of the time, will feature MICA performances and programming.

Founded in 1826, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is the oldest continuously degree-granting college of art and design in the nation. The College enrolls nearly 3,500 undergraduate, graduate and continuing studies students from 48 states and 61 countries in fine arts, design, electronic media, art education, liberal arts, and professional studies degree and non-credit programs. Redefining art and design education, MICA is pioneering interdisciplinary approaches to innovation, research, and community and social engagement. Alumni and programming reach around the globe, even as MICA remains a cultural cornerstone in the Baltimore/Washington region, hosting hundreds of exhibitions and events annually by students, faculty and other established artists.