Beyond Our Gates: A Q&A With David Bogen

Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs David Bogen discusses MICA's work with community stakeholders in Baltimore, specifically in and around the Station North Arts and Entertainment District adjacent to MICA’s campus.

David Bogen, provost and vice president for academic affairs at MICA, has more than 20 years experience in higher education program development, research strategies and partnership building; and over the course of his career, he has been a pioneer in the development of interdisciplinary programs using project-, studio- and community-based approaches to instruction.

He is also a fierce advocate of community- and social justice-based approaches to education, and has a history developing major research projects and partnerships involving health design, social practice, art and science collaborations, and environmental and cultural sustainability initiatives with city and community partners. While at MICA, Bogen has continued to position the College as an active community partner in the city, using his expertise to build authentic and impactful partnerships with an eye for long-term impact and sustainability.

We recently spoke with Bogen about these efforts, specifically about work with community stakeholders in areas in and around the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, adjacent to MICA’s campus.

Mica Communications You came to MICA with a history of creating successful partnerships between institutions and outside parners. What is your perspective about these kinds of outreach efforts?

David Bogen  The perspective I brought to MICA is that institutions are made stronger by what they do outside their gates. When I came here, MICA already had a strong national reputation for community-based and partnered work and, under Sammy’s leadership, this long-standing vision for working to advance arts, culture, and education in Baltimore has rapidly evolved and become central to the College’s mission and vision. 

MC MICA had a history of working within the community under former President Fred Lazarus when you first arrived on campus; has the College’s approach to working with the community changed since then?

DB I think our work now can be seen as a continuation of this legacy and a drawing forward of key elements that were in place historically at the College and in Baltimore. Given the work that Fred Lazarus and [former provost] Ray Allen accomplished, and the long-standing work of MICA students, staff and faculty that emphasizes the importance of the arts to the vitality and promise of our cities, the table was well set when I arrived. That historical commitment is very much present in our work now. But, in my view, there’s been a re-centering and a re-commitment to this work.

A milestone event in that change has been the re-articulation of MICA’s Mission and Vision. It wasn’t that Baltimore wasn’t important to MICA’s mission before, but it wasn’t on the page, so to speak. By saying that MICA will “thrive with Baltimore” – we’re putting the city front and center and tying our advancement as a College of art and design to Baltimore’s advancement as a city. How is MICA, as an institution, present in the city more widely than just existing physically on Mount Royal Avenue and in the Lazarus Graduate Studio Center and the JHU-MICA Film Centre on North Avenue?

But not only has MICA changed, the world has changed. Our student population has changed dramatically. We have many more international students, and so new cultures are being brought to Baltimore, which gives this work a global dimension.

MCMICA works in communities throughout Baltimore, but we wanted to talk specifically about Station North, where so much creative activity is happening. You’ve referred to this as the Station North Innovation Corridor. Can you tell us about MICA’s work in the area?

DB Station North is our most proximate neighborhood, and because of that we have the most likelihood of building strong, reciprocal relationships and partnerships in this area, and of having momentum and positive impact. MICA’s efforts in Station North are part of an intentional commitment to share resources with partner organizations that add to our students’ educational experience and development while benefiting these organizations.

If you’re going to talk about the Station North Innovation Corridor, visualize this area of Baltimore first. Think about a map and then drop a pin on MICA’s Studio Center and the Film Centre on North Avenue. Then add another pin on all the innovative sites within a mile and half radius – within walking distance, which is really important – and you’ll see our partner sites. You’ll see Open Works and Baltimore Design School (BDS). You’ll see Wide Angle Youth Media and Oak Hill Center for Education and Culture. You’ll see Motor House, the Jewelry Center, the Maryland Film Festival at the SNF Parkway, galleries and pop up spaces. Those are just few, and we’ve got people with ties back to MICA involved in all of these businesses and organizations.

There’s just a concentration of activity there, some of which MICA is leading, some of which our partners are leading. Some of this innovation and enterprise is happening organically within the community, and we’re participating alongside.

Everyone is benefiting one another mutually, and with a focus on empowering members of the community and our different organizations. But there’s an emergent and, most importantly, art- and design-oriented fabric to the area.

MC Can you talk about some of the partners MICA is working with in Station North?

DB Beyond partner sites, there’s a range of organizations we’re working with there. There’s Station North Arts & Entertainment Inc. group and a Station North neighborhood improvement group that we’re part of.  The BMA, the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation and BARCO [Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation] are very involved as well.

Getting these projects going has involved an array of different interests and partners – there are commercial and neighborhood interests, there are institutional partners, and nonprofits.  We’re all in this district to generate activity in the area and support the needs of the local community, where a lot of this is about services people can access and jobs we can help create.

MCIn looking at some of the programs and partnerships in Station North, is there one that exemplifies the kind of outcome that MICA is trying to achieve?

DB When I talk about the Innovation Corridor, I see it as part of a larger art- and design-based educational project. That’s why I’m pretty focused on BDS right now, because we’re seeing some real results there. For instance, MICA’s [Art and Design College Accelerator] ADCAP program – a grant-funded college preparation program for local high school students from very diverse background – is for students across Baltimore City, but about half of the participants in the program are from BDS. That kind of participation goes beyond just the experience in the classroom. Simultaneously, Wide Angle Youth Media, an organization that uses media to help local youth tell their stories, draws students from all over the city; but half of them still come from BDS because the work Wide Angle is doing that is interesting to those students. And we have such strong partners at the leadership level at BDS and identified shared interests in advancing the educational opportunities of their students in the fields of art and design. It is an amazing partnership.

Then you see individuals from MICA who work across these multiple sites – like Becky Slogeris. She’s an alumna as well as faculty and associate director at the Center for Social Design. She’s also teaches at Wide Angle Youth Media, and she’s doing a social design workshop at BDS. If a teacher is working across multiple sites, then the students will start traveling across programs with those teachers. It’s the sign that there is a broader ecology of educational opportunity emerging…the beginning of a movement.

MC What’s important about that kind of movement?

DB If we’re not present in people’s imagination or in their experience, we’re not present. So ask yourself this question: why and how would a student in the seventh grade in one of Baltimore’s public schools know about or spend any time at MICA?

So it is through these projects and through these connections being made, that now we can see more young people from Baltimore City on our campus.  BDS is a new public school and just had their second graduating class, and we’ve had our first admits to MICA from them this year. That’s one of the bottom line goals. It’s a small number of students at this point, but it’s the result of MICA working with BDS to develop the curriculum and make the educational experience robust.

MC Is MICA’s approach to working in the Innovation Corridor part of a new community engagement model?

DBThe model that we’re working with is not necessarily brand new. In higher education, many colleges and universities have high schools, for example, that they designate as professional development sites or have partnered with. But the idea of bringing in all these different actors in different kinds of relationships together in Station North – and most importantly, not trying to run the show but being part of the show – is an emergent perspective. It is truly innovative within higher education. 

The real question is: what kind of constructive role can art and design colleges and universities play in these urban centers in the third decade of the 21st century? Let’s not talk about all institutions, let’s just talk about what art and design institutions and their unique relationship to the cities in which they are located can be.

My own view—based on my experiences in Boston, and Providence, and Vancouver and now Baltimore—is that art and design institutions are uniquely positioned to help empower communities and to be catalysts and partners for progressive social change.