"As a mainstay of this city, Fred Lazarus has encouraged, cajoled, and inspired colleagues within MICA and across Baltimore to work harder, dream bigger, and envision a brighter and more vibrant community."
Ronald J. Daniels
President of The Johns Hopkins University
In the neighborhoods and the news, MICA was visible in a significant way again in FY2013, expanding its ongoing commitment to the city and citizens beyond the campus, and furthering its stature as a national model for collegebased community engagement. From neighborhood-centered teaching initiatives to grand neighborhood transformations, MICA as an institution and its students as individual activists continue to demonstrate their belief in art as a force for positive change on a local and global scale.
MICA's influence was cited by Fast Company magazine last year when it named Baltimore one of the "15 Tech Scenes in Places You'd Never Think to Look." The Huffington Post commended MICA as a "generator and magnet for human capital," helping to make Baltimore "the perfect incubator for artists and others searching for low-cost living and ample space to innovate." And three MICA community engagement initiatives made Baltimore magazine's "Best of Baltimore" list for 2012.
"MICA has played a critical role in revitalizing its neighboring communities and in stimulating the development of Baltimore's arts and cultural life."
The Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Mayor, City of Baltimore
In January of 2013, The Baltimore Sun cataloged MICA's pioneering community engagement efforts, citing MICA as one of the first Baltimore institutions to incorporate community engagement into its strategic plan more than a decade ago. While certainly formulated with a guiding altruistic spirit, that strategy was practical as well.
"What happens in our city, especially in our neighborhoods, is really crucial to our ability to attract and retain students," President Fred Lazarus IV told The Sun at that time. "We can't be passive observers."
The students have definitely been attracted to MICA—enrollment has more than doubled during Lazarus' tenure—and MICA's impact on its neighborhood and the city has been significant. There are murals, community farms, and art classes and outreach programs at schools and in neighborhoods. Perhaps most visible in scale (in addition to the school's own ambitious physical expansion) is the Station North district MICA adopted as an anchor institution, called the the most successful of Baltimore's arts districts by The New York Times last year, and earning a top spot on the Times' list of things to visit during "36 Hours in Baltimore"-a considerable achievement for a neighborhood that not long ago was considered blighted and unsafe.
During the 2013 fiscal year, students and faculty also completed a pilot for a new community-based learning program that will develop courses to address specific needs in the community. One such project partnered students with the Mayor's Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, and Lexington Market, the city's oldest public market, to design stands for licensed street vendors. The students' solution won the praise of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
On a citywide level, MICA launched the Baltimore Art + Justice Project, an ambitious, first-of-its-kind project designed to connect arts-based practitioners focused on social justice and amplify their collective impact. The program is the inaugural city platform of the national Animating Democracy program, which has goals of understanding and fostering the role of art and design to address community inequities. The Baltimore Art + Justice Project has initial funding through a two-year, $150,000 grant from the Open Society Foundations in New York.
On a more global scale, three students from the MA in Social Design program were invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University in April. Co-hosted by former President Bill Clinton and political comic and activist Stephen Colbert, the conference brought together students from more than 80 countries to explore new ideas for tackling global challenges. Mira Azarm '13, Jonathan Erwin '13, and Heejin Suh '13 attended the invitation-only event.
COLLEGE WITHOUT BORDERS
MICA's commitment to community engagement has grown and solidified over decades, the product of a long-term vision of MICA as a leader not only in the neighborhood and city, but also in the nation. A host of initiatives over the years has steadily and deliberately fostered a now firm institutional mindset that art has a vital activist role to play, and that it is MICA's responsibility to be its catalyst. As with so much of the College's progress, community engagement has been inspired and enabled by the efforts of President Lazarus.
His thought process was clear even in his interview for the job of president in 1978, when Lazarus told Board Chair Eleanor Hutzler, "For Maryland Institute to be a great art college, Baltimore needs to be a great city for artists." At the time, Baltimore was struggling with re-birthing pains—Harborplace and the Convention Center were yet to be built, and Baltimore's image was of a decaying, postindustrial port city. But plans were in place and finally taking shape, and Hutzler was confident. "Baltimore is on its way to becoming a great city," Hutzler told Lazarus, "for everyone."
Art played a prominent role in that renaissance. For the next three and a half decades, Lazarus and MICA pursued all manner of opportunities not just to make Baltimore a fertile and friendly city for artists, but for MICA and its artist community to effect positive change across the city for all its residents.
"He's someone who has taken MICA to a new level as an art school, but also he embraced new ideas that make Baltimore a greater city."
Director, The Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2013
One of Lazarus' first efforts was to enlist a coalition to help create Maryland Art Place, which opened in 1981 near Baltimore's reborn Inner Harbor and gave contemporary and emerging artists a prominent new exhibit place. Later that same year, Lazarus convinced Mayor William Donald Schaefer's administration to locate the new citywide arts festival in MICA's Mt. Royal Station neighborhood. Artscape soon became the biggest free arts festival in the nation, and continues to draw big-name acts and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
As MICA's catalytic impact in the city continued to grow, Lazarus sought to empower students to make a positive difference in its neighborhoods. To celebrate Lazarus' 20 years of service, the Board of Trustees created the President's Fund for Community Initiatives. MICA used grants from the Wallace Foundation to advance efforts for youth and community development through the arts, emphasizing partnerships with community-based organizations. In addition, the College partnered with The France-Merrick Foundation to expand MICA's Community Arts Partnerships program, which provides funding for students to design and implement artsbased projects to elevate challenged neighborhoods and empower people throughout the city.
President Lazarus did not just impact the city through academic and student programming, however. He made it both an expectation and a priority that MICA senior staff become directly involved in arts, culture, and education in the city, and made it not only an acceptable, but expected part of their work responsibilities. Theresa Bedoya, vice president for Admission & Financial Aid, has served as chair of the Baltimore Collegetown Network of colleges; Chief Financial Officer Douglas Mann has served as chair of Maryland Citizens for the Arts; Michael Molla, vice president for operations, has chaired the Station North Arts and Entertainment District; Leslie King-Hammond, PhD, director of MICA's Center for Race and Culture, chairs the Reginald F. Lewis Museum; Michael Franco, EdD, vice president for advancement, has been vice president of the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance; and Provost Ray Allen has served on the board of The Contemporary Museum.
Of course, Lazarus has led by example, serving as founding chair of Americans for the Arts and the Central Baltimore Partnership and as a founding board member of the Midtown Development Corporation. He has also chaired the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and has served on the boards of an extraordinarily diverse range of organizations, including Partners for Livable Communities, Arts Every Day, Friends of Artists Equity, the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property, the Afro-American Newspaper, American Visionary Art Museum, Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, Howard Street Development Corporation, Maryland Art Place, Maryland Artists Equity Foundation, The Baltimore Council for Equal Business Opportunity, the WYPR Community Artist Board, Addition Art Advisory Board, the SNAAP Advisory Board, and the D Center Baltimore.
From the individual efforts of students, faculty, and alumni to degree programs and national initiatives, community engagement is not an afterthought or tangent at MICA, but is now woven into its institutional fabric-in large part due to the efforts of President Fred Lazarus over the past 35 years.
"MICA's approach to community engagement is at once comprehensive and strategic," he has said, "and also dependent on the freedom to pursue unconventional approaches to complex challenges."
"He's the most fiercely community-minded person I know. His value goes well beyond his contributions to Artscape, which he helped start. His focus was always on the well-being of the entire community."
Founder and Director, American Visionary Art Museum
Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2013