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Employers Agree: MICA Artists and Designers Are the Cream of the Crop

National Companies and Organizations Benefit from the Expertise of MICA Students and Alumni

Posted 09.01.13 by mica communications

It's no secret the MICA community is making its mark around the globe. Many companies and organizations reap the benefits of the skills and talents of MICA graduates. Juxtapositions spoke with a few of these employers to find out exactly why they come to MICA to find artists and designers ahead of the game for internships and employment.

Walters Art Museum

Whenever I get a cover letter from a MICA student, I'm excited to read it," said John Shields, manager of docent and internship programs for the Walters Art Museum, a world-class museum, especially in conservation and research. "The enthusiasm and the skills that MICA students bring are wonderful."

 Over the years, many MICA students have served as interns, events assistants, and part-time employees who help out with family programming. MICA interns have also been able to enhance their art education at Walters Art Museum, learning firsthand about art education, art conservation, and curatorial practice.

While some students and alumni have interned and moved on to different opportunities, others grew a career at the museum. One such alumna, faculty member Emily Blumenthal '03 (general fine arts), has worked there for the past decade.

"I interned at the museum in my senior year, and then my first position was as the adult programs assistant," she said. Blumenthal is the manager of family and community programs. In this role, she oversees efforts to engage children, as well as the adults who accompany them. "We want to make their experience within the museum's permanent collections and galleries meaningful," she said.

Blumenthal credits MICA with helping prepare her to excel at the museum. According to her, the Exhibition Development Seminar created by MICA Curator-in-Residence George Ciscle was particularly instrumental because "the hands-on experience was paramount to my ability to function in a professional setting," she said. MICA also taught her collaboration skills, which have helped her work more effectively with others in different departments of the museum.

The general consensus: the relationship between MICA students and the museum is a win-win for all involved. The museum gets access to a steady stream of talent that sees the value in art education while the students get to spread their wings in a professional museum setting.

"We're not just looking to enhance someone's résumé. We're allowing them the opportunity to see the diverse opportunities that exist within museums and within art educational careers," Blumenthal said.


Some employers understand the value MICA students and alumni bring because they passed through the College's halls themselves. This includes Todd Harvey '98 (general fine arts), a co-owner of the Baltimore-based creative agency Mission.

"One of the things that is unique about MICA is that the students aren't just technicians when it comes to graphic design," Harvey said. "There's such a heavy emphasis on conceptual thinking and purpose."

Those skills have led MICA students to excel at Mission, serving in roles ranging from interns to art directors.

Harvey credits MICA with giving him the confidence to believe that he could start a company of his own. As one of the 10 founding members of the H. Lewis Gallery, the gallery that launched a legacy of student-run galleries at MICA, Harvey learned the value of following through on his creative ideas. He knows that every intern and employee Mission hires from MICA shares that same confidence and capability, which is what he looks for when making hiring decisions.

"Employees must have a willingness to be collaborative and a willingness to get on with it-not just wait for direction," Harvey said.

One recent MICA graduate who has grown as a result of his time at Mission is Calvin Blue '13 (video). Blue started at Mission as an intern in 2012 and was later hired to do contract work for the company. By the time Blue left the company, he had a new appreciation for the professionalism that's needed for an art career.

While one of his main roles was editing video, he also took part in meetings with Mission clients, which taught him communication skills needed to effectively connect with his own clients when doing other freelance work.

"The internship got me used to the whole office experience and really got me thinking about how professionals work within a business setting," Blue said.

Blue believes he was prepared to work for Mission largely because of the training he received at MICA, as well as the support of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development, which helped him perfect his résumé and make valuable professional contacts.


Eloisa Lopez, production coordinator at Nickelodeon, said the company values a helpful and positive attitude she often finds in MICA students.

"If you want to excel as an intern here at Nickelodeon, the most important thing would be to take pride in your work," Lopez said. "Even
if it is the simplest of tasks, do it with a positive attitude and be attentive to detail."

A number of students have interned at Nickelodeon with a range of duties. Hannah Spitz '14 (general fine arts) for example, recently interned for Lopez and assisted the production team with prepping, checking, and listing materials for artists and video conferences.

"She was a great addition to the team because she knew how to conduct herself in a very professional and positive manner," Lopez said. "She was able to meet with other artists and hear about their beginnings in this business as well as ask for advice and feedback from them."

MICA alumni have also taken full-time jobs with Nickelodeon. William Niu '12 (illustration) has worked at Nickelodeon in its Burbank, California, offices since 2012. Niu is a background designer for the television show The Legend of Korra.

One of his duties is to "make sure all the backgrounds hook up to each other and are consistent," he explained.

Niu considers his time at MICA to be instrumental in his ability to adapt to the professional environment at Nickelodeon and to feel confident he is equipped to succeed.

"The Illustration Department was very helpful, not only in terms of what I learned, but I think institutionally MICA is one of the greatest art schools for my field," he said.

Niu also said MICA gave him another edge. "I was fortunate enough to have a class full of like-minded people. We pushed each other and gave each other information, so a lot of stuff I learned was not only from school, but also my friends."

Baltimore Clayworks

Baltimore Clayworks, a cultural organization dedicated to ceramic arts, has worked with many MICA students and alumni since it was founded
in 1980.

"One of the things about MICA students is they're generally self-directed, and we look for people who want to learn and know what they want to learn," said Sarah McCann '08 (MA in Community Arts), development director at Baltimore Clayworks. McCann has worked for the organization since 2009, when she was hired to teach a clay class to homeless families
in a shelter.

Like other MICA alumni, McCann finds Baltimore Clayworks an excellent training ground for those who have a passion for community arts. Depending on the time of year, she may find herself doing anything from grant writing to membership processing to donor cultivation, and her experience at MICA has helped her be flexible enough to adapt.

As McCann explained, when a student starts MICA's graduate Community Arts program, "you hit the ground running."

"You have the support of the institution to give you feedback and help you to problem solve," she said.

Another alumna who has taken the skills she learned at MICA to Baltimore Clayworks is Dominique Hellgeth '10 (ceramics). Through the Community Art Collaborative program, Hellgeth started working at Baltimore Clayworks a year after finishing at MICA as an AmeriCorps Community Artist-in-Residence.

"I wanted to work with youth in the city and experience joy though craft and creativity, so Baltimore Clayworks was a natural fit," Hellgeth said. Her duties run the gamut: she manages supplies, teaches a class to youths and teens, creates lesson plans, does video and photo documentation, recruits new participants, and serves as a liaison for the organization's partnership with Jubilee Arts, and more.

Hellgeth believes the skills she gained in MICA's Ceramics Department prepared her to make a difference at Baltimore Clayworks, and she also thinks Baltimore Clayworks has a lot to offer MICA students and alumni.

"The environment here provides structure and support. All of the staff are helpful in providing ways to learn and take leadership on different projects. So it's really a good experience for folks who want to be in the field or want to work in the community."

Photo Captions (from top to bottom): The Walters Art Museum's Family Programs staff, which includes education assistants from MICA. Inside Mission, a graphic design firm that has hired several MICA students and alumni. William Niu '12 (illustration) stands outside of Nickelodeon, where he works as a background designer for The Legend of Korra. Sarah McCann '08 (MA in Community Arts) is the development director at Baltimore Clayworks. Dominique Hellgeth '10 (ceramics) working with students at Baltimore Clayworks, where she has worked since 2011.