The visual arts are one of the basic elements of culture— one of America’s most treasured assets. The visual arts cause people to think about their place in the evolution of humanity; reflect on their values as they relate to the rest of society; explore the experiences, feelings, and beliefs of others; and imagine new possibilities. In short, the visual arts help to enlighten society.
Literally since the beginning of recorded history, images have been the cornerstone of human communication, history, and imagination. Visual media are one of the foundations of civilizations, and countless years after the first prehistoric drawings were sketched, a visual image is still worth a thousand words—even now in the age of Twitter and texting. Internet giants like Facebook and Google, for example, recently spent billions on technology to upgrade their users’ ability to share photos and images. Though the Internet has exploded the ability for people to share creative work across boundaries, oceans, and cultures, however it hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for engaging with works of art in person. The proof is in the numbers. On their travels, 78 percent of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities; they spend 63% more than other leisure travelers and tend to stay longer than other tourists. Some 850 million visits to America’s 17,000 plus museums by people from all over the world prove the continued popularity of these institutions. That’s more than the number of people who attend sporting events and theme parks—combined.
Art galleries in public and private museums provide access to the art that enlightens people in both urban and rural areas all over the world. Likewise, privately-owned galleries serve a crucial role in the showcasing of art, ensuring that people can embrace it intimately, and connecting artists and potential purchasers. One quarter of the American population visited art galleries in 2008. And despite the global economic slowdown, sales of art were actually up in 2011—to the highest level in history due, in large part to explosive growth in China (up 49 percent).
In every way, MICA continues to lead in preparing students to use art as a catalyst for thought. Well known for producing talented, thoughtful artists, the school has solidified its role as an educator of great curators as well. During the 2011-12 academic year, the first class in the new MFA in Curatorial Practice program began classes, led by MICA Curator-In-Residence George Ciscle. Students in the two-year program, the first of its kind in the country, will curate both group and individual exhibitions around Baltimore based on the audience outreach and theme requirements of the venue.
MICA is committed to making art accessible to the public through free access to galleries on campus. With the October 2012 opening of the Graduate Studio Center, the College is taking that commitment to the next level.
The arts are especially important to Marylanders. Ninety percent of Marylanders believe that the arts make the state “a better place to live.” Though the artists and designers that learn and teach at MICA—and go forth from MICA—create their work for different reasons, based on different experiences, with different goals, they all have one thing in common. They have a burning passion to be innovative—to express themselves and their ideas and feelings as only they can.
MICA students and alumni’s power to tell stories, their unique perspective on art, and their unique ability to use multiple media to explain the world as they envision it, all lead to a brilliant result. They enlighten the world.