John Aquila '11 had come to MICA because of Baltimore. Growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, a city much like Baltimore, he saw it as a place he wanted to help grow and flourish.
Being an orientation leader his sophomore year led him to become involved with admissions and student activities. He has probably given a tour to most of the freshmen that have passed through the campus. He had seen this role as a way to spread his love of the school and Baltimore to those who were interested in coming to MICA. “Tours were a way to share my experiences with prospective students,” he said. “MICA is a great asset to Baltimore culturally, and Baltimore is an asset to MICA because of the location and endless opportunities.”
A student affairs grant the summer before his junior year had allowed him to further his interest in inspiring Baltimoreans, and he had teamed with fellow students to create a large-scale mural—which he described as “surreal animal meets geometric world”—at a day care center in East Baltimore. Murals, he feels, bring “colorful energy in a grey area.”
This experience led him to apply for the France-Merrick Fellowship through MICA’s Community Arts Partnership (CAP), which he was awarded for his senior year to create murals throughout Baltimore. He hopes these murals will connect people to their neighborhoods. Along with Kerry Cesen ’09, he had pulled inspirational quotes from conversations with community members about things they would like to see happen in their area, and then utilized them in the murals. One example, near the University of Maryland’s BioPark, features the quote “help something grow” and came out of a conversation with a café shop owner, whose 9-year-old son then helped come up with the color palette and with the painting.
By putting these murals up, “I hope people see them every day, with this inspirational quote, and find it motivational,” he said, “motivating them to improve their neighborhood and their outlook.” Involved with CAP since freshman year—helping organize CAPfest and starting its annual exhibition—Aquila teaches in an afterschool art program at Baltimore’s Carver Vocational Technical High School with Shana Hoehn ’13, leading a sketchbook development class he hopes will allow the students to express themselves.
He wants eventually to get his MFA so he can teach at a college level. Though he’s still exploring what he wants to do immediately after graduation, he is interested in the idea of PR and in “raising awareness of the possibilities of improving communities.”