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How Will Baltimore Influence Me as a Grad Student?

Independent, Artist-driven, Experimental, Communal

The best way to sum up Baltimore’s scene is that it is independent in a wild sort of way. It doesn’t link itself to trends, doesn’t try to sell out, and has a by-artists-for-artists mentality. Baltimore doesn’t have the volume of events that New York or Chicago have, but it makes up for it in energy. The result is an open city where artists, designers, curators and educators are eager to coordinate and collaborate.

Some Frequently Asked Questions About Living in Baltimore

The Arts Scene

Students can find off-campus exhibition space, participate in alternative theater projects, see local acts that have national recognition, and invent new ways to contribute.

Artist-run exhibition venues:

Independence, Support, Community, Progress

Although MICA has absolutely everything you need to make anything you want to, Baltimore as a city is experiencing a profound renaissance of art, design, music, and activist culture—and they are all fundamentally linked in a way that is unique. Most organizations are founded by young artists and designers seeking to both satisfy an urge to create, but also an urge to unify and build community. Organizations are founded around needs: exhibition space, maker space, community space, and co-working space. At their core, they are all investigating new, progressive ways for artists and designers to be functional, expressive, relevant and active.

Organizations that support making/art activism:

Organizations that support community:

MICA-supported initiatives:

City-supported artsfestivals:

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How's the music?

What’s close to MICA

Like most east coast cities, Baltimore is a collection of dozens of smaller neighborhoods. As you begin to explore the city, we always recommend starting with Live Baltimore’s Neighborhood Guide to get a sense of geography. MICA, including graduate housing for both full-time and low-residency graduate students, is located in Bolton Hill. Charles North (better known as Station North) is home to the Fred Lazarus IV Center for Graduate Studies, Film Centre, and a flurry of recent, independently-driven arts, music, theater, and food activity. Mount Vernon is one of the most popular areas for MICA students to live off-campus. Graduate students live, work and exhibit all over the city, but these neighborhoods are the triangle around MICA’s campus.

Some great places or groups to explore not mentioned above:

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What types of opportunities are there for artists and designers in Baltimore?

Baltimore has a different feel from cities like New York and even Washington, D.C., because there is less emphasis on upscale gallery representation—the scene is more community- and artist-driven. If you’ve looked at some of the links above, you can see some of the communal, D.I.Y., tireless ethic that drives Baltimore’s art scene. More than that, there are excellent support opportunities for artists and designers as they finish their graduate education: The Baker Artist Awards and Sondheim Prize are great examples. And that doesn’t count grants for exiting students offered through MICA, like the Walter’s Traveling Fellowship.

For designers, the Center for Design Practice and Social Design program have been revolutionizing design. They have created opportunities for designers to have an impact on the operation of a major city.

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What is the cost of living like in Baltimore?

That’s always a tough question, because it always a comparison. There are some good online cost of living calculators (Expatisan is our favorite—it is truly global in scale) that will help you compare Baltimore to where you are living now.

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Do I need a car to get around Baltimore?

The short answer is no, although Baltimore is a relatively easy city in which to have a car. Baltimore is small, and the area surrounding MICA is relatively compact. In fact, Walk Score calls Baltimore the 11th most walk-able city in the U.S. (the neighborhood of Mount Vernon earns the prestigious "Walkers Paradise" label). Additionally, a recent uptick in bike lanes and a large number of student bikers make bicycling a great transit option as well. Baltimore’s is also home to sprawling bus lines (including the free-to-ride Charm City Circulator) that can be tricky to learn but will take you almost anywhere.

Zipcars can be found almost anywhere in Baltimore, and they also make trucks and vans available. So if you only occasionally need a vehicle to make supply runs, Zipcar can be a great solution.

If you do bring your car, Residential Parking Permits for street parking are available for all neighborhoods and only cost about $20 for the year--so bringing a vehicle is manageable.

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Should I live on-campus or off-campus?

For low-residency students coming from outside Baltimore, we definitely recommend taking advantage of the on-campus housing for the six week residencies—although it is not required. For full-time students, MICA has very limited on-campus housing options, and we tend to prioritize international students (and others coming from great distances) when it comes to housing assignments. Baltimore is a largely residential city with many students, so finding off-campus housing can be very easy. We talk about how to research both options on our housing page, but we definitely recommend at least doing some general research on living off-campus because there are some great options available for students.

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If I can’t visit Baltimore before I start school, what do you recommend?

The best thing to do to learn more about Baltimore—what to do, where to eat, where to live—is to talk to your faculty and classmates. Because Baltimore is small, friendly and accessible, you can learn a lot about the city in a very short amount of time. Most of the faculty and staff have been living in Baltimore for a long time, so they can be a great resource for information about everything from where to get a haircut, to where to get a cheap dinner. We’ve always loved how generous most Baltimoreans are with their time and knowledge, so take advantage.

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This page was last updated on 11/16/2017.