Fred Lazarus IV is president of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where since 1978 he has led the evolution of the College into a globally recognized leader in transformative art and design education. Under his leadership, MICA's enrollment has more than doubled; the size of the campus has increased tenfold; the endowment has grown by more than 25 times; three research centers have been created; and seventeen undergraduate and graduate academic programs have been added. Today, MICA's MFA graduate programs are ranked in the top 10 nationally by US News and World Report, and Parade magazine recently promoted MICA's undergraduate studio arts programs as one of the top two nationwide. Programming instituted by the College in both interdisciplinary study and community and social engagement have sparked international trends in higher education. In 2013, President Lazarus was named a finalist for the Baltimore Sun's Marylander of the Year award, and won its online poll. Baltimore magazine recognized him for having the city's "Best Legacy" in their 2013 "Best Of Baltimore" edition, and Baltimore's City Paper named him the city's most powerful person during the first week of May 2013. Also in 2013, the City of Baltimore announced the creation of the annual Fred Lazarus IV Artscape Prize, to be awarded each year to a high school senior. Lazarus received an honorable mention for the 2012 Marylander of the Year award, was featured in Baltimore magazine's 2011 "power" listing of the city's most influential people, and was awarded the 2010 Founders Award for Civic Leadership from Partners for Livable Communities. More recently, he was honored by resolutions passed in both the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate, and the City of Baltimore declared March 26, 2014 as "Fred Lazarus Day."
Beyond MICA, President Lazarus is a national leader in the advancement and integration of the arts, education, and community development. He served as founding chair of both Americans for the Arts and the National Coalition for Education in the Arts, and has also chaired the Maryland Independent College and Universities Association, the Arts Education Committee of the American Council for the Arts, and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. He is the founding and current chair of Central Baltimore Partnership, a founding board member of both the Midtown Development Corporation board and the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, and serves on numerous other boards of directors, including Partners for Livable Communities, Arts Every Day, and Americans for the Arts. He is also a founder and vice-chair of the Baltimore Design School.
While Lazarus has overseen innovations in academic programming that are global in scope, much of his work has also been focused on improving the cultural and economic vitality of Baltimore. In fact, thanks in large part to Lazarus's leadership, Baltimore's reputation as a cultural destination has exploded in recent years. He was instrumental in launching the city's annual Artscape festival, which has become the largest free arts festival in the United States. Anchored on MICA's campus and extending out for multiple city blocks, Artscape annually draws more than 350,000 visitors and has an economic impact on Maryland approaching $26 million. Likewise, his leadership in opening MICA's Graduate Studio Center on a neglected stretch of Baltimore's North Avenue triggered the revitalization of that entire area and its subsequent designation as Maryland's first official Arts and Entertainment District. Now known as Station North, and fueled by energy from MICA's student body and other cultural enthusiasts, its galleries, performance spaces, eateries, and shops are havens for individuals seeking creative pursuits and constitute an economic engine for the city. His advocacy helped persuade the MICA board of trustees to make community development an integral part of the College's mission and strategic plan, and the College has used its growth to anchor expanded business opportunities based on the arts, the development of residential spaces, and the of recruitment artists to live and work in areas adjacent to the school. Through Lazarus's strong encouragement, MICA's senior leadership staff and faculty serve on and chair dozens of cultural and economic development boards across the city.
Lazarus's unique understanding of how to leverage art and education to economically and culturally empower communities is rooted in his own education and early career. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree in economics from Claremont-McKenna College. After serving two years in the Peace Corps, he eventually became president of the Washington Council for Equal Business Opportunity, where he helped secure business investment in impoverished areas of the nation's capital. He later served as senior aide to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts before coming to MICA. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Baltimore City Mayor's Award, the National Art Education Association's Distinguished Service Award, the Sustainable Growth Award from Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission, the Smart Growth Hero Award from 1000 Friends of Maryland, the Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award from Maryland Citizens for the Arts, and an honorary doctorate from Osaka University for the Arts in Japan.
Impact Beyond MICA
Americans for the Arts
In 1996, the American Council for the Arts and the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies merged to form Americans for the Arts. According to the organization, its goal was “to increase access to and participation in the arts and culture for all Americans by supporting arts education and developing leaders, resources, and strong agencies.” Lazarus was selected to serve as the first chair of the newly named organization’s board. Since that time, the organization has enhanced its reputation as one of the nation’s leading arts advocacy organizations, presiding over numerous initiatives that have increased the visibility of and support for art and culture on multiple levels, from the halls of Congress to schools and individual households. Through advocacy, the organization has helped attract billions of dollars in federal, state, local government, and private financial support for cultural initiatives. It also provides research, such as the National Arts Index, to highlight the importance and impact of culture in America; connects organizations that empower artists and expand access to culture; and provides tools for individuals and organizations leading related initiatives and alliances.
Central Baltimore Partnership
Lazarus is the founding and current chair of the Central Baltimore Partnership, an organization that connects partners and brings development resources to neighborhood organizations, nonprofits, educational institutions, private businesses, and city government agencies in an area of Baltimore that includes Penn Station and stretches from MICA to the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. The organization, founded in 2006, works to improve the long-term quality of life in the area through support for residential and commercial development, education, and culture. It acts as a leader addressing a wide range of areas, such as safety, sanitation, appearance, traffic, schools, housing, and code enforcement.
Midtown Development Corporation
As a founding board member of the Midtown Development Corporation, Lazarus has helped guide the organization as it addresses property development needs in the Bolton Hill, Charles North, Madison Park, Mount Vernon, and Seton Hill neighborhoods of Baltimore. Founded in 2000, its core service is to help new homeowners and renovators find and work with contractors, design renovations, finance purchases, and rehab houses. Since its founding, the organization has helped foster the renovation of more than 100 buildings with a total value in excess of $25 million.
Baltimore Design School
With a focus on fashion, architecture, and graphic design, Baltimore Design School is among few in the country that allow middle school students to explore design-related fields in-depth. State Senator Catherine Pugh worked with Lazarus to plan and finance the development of the school and engineer its unique curriculum. Students moved into its permanent home in Station North in 2011, after a $26.85 million renovation of a former clothing factory. Pugh serves as the founding chair of the board, while Lazarus serves as its founding vice-chair.
Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design
In 1991, Lazarus and 24 other college presidents created the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD). The organization links independent art colleges together to share resources and knowledge, and promote the value of art education. Today, the association has 43 member colleges.