MICA Launches New Citywide Initiative to Support Baltimore's Creatives and Entrepreneurs

Maggie Villegas

The Baltimore Creatives Acceleration Network (B/CAN) is a new citywide initiative spearheaded by MICA but operating under its own identity that will foster a vibrant and inclusive creative economy in the city. Longtime Baltimore arts and culture producer Maggie Villegas, who co-founded the renowned EMP Collective and previously oversaw community-driven arts initiatives for the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA), will officially begin as executive director August 1.

"B/CAN aims to build a networked system to support Baltimore's creatives across socio-economic, gender, generational, geographic and disciplinary boundaries," said MICA President Samuel Hoi. "Maggie brings to B/CAN the ideal mix of proven skills in long-term planning and strategic program development, an extensive knowledge of Baltimore communities and the local arts scene, a dedication to the professional advancement of creatives of diverse backgrounds and a commitment to creative entrepreneurship and equitable access to opportunity."

Conceived as a 10-year, multi-sector initiative that formally launches this fall, B/CAN will consist of key programs that are designed to serve creatives throughout the life-span of their careers and enterprise development, providing flexible support suited to their level of interest and specific needs. The program is open to creatives of all disciplines (visual arts and design, traditional crafts, music, performing arts, film, media and more), education and professional backgrounds (trained, self-taught, grassroots or national practices) and neighborhoods throughout Baltimore. MICA affiliation is not a prerequisite.

The 2017-2018 pilot year will gradually build up program features (specific details on B/CAN's website, programs and partnerships will be announced at a later date), and will leverage existing services and resources for partnerships and community relations.

"I am tremendously excited to shape B/CAN's programming and development from the outset," said Villegas. "Baltimore is a city that is increasingly known for being home to a deeply collaborative, visionary and socially-engaged creative community that is filled with entrepreneurial spirit. B/CAN will actively create an infrastructure to support Baltimore's self-starting creatives and their ventures long-term, solidifying that reputation."

When fully developed, B/CAN will feature an incubation program; wide-access professional advancement assistance that focuses on business, financial and legal planning; networking events to connect creatives with trusted agents and resources; and a mobile program to provide pop-up access to services and mentors for a broad base of residents in various city neighborhoods.

"B/CAN is a bold experiment that has the potential to serve as a model for other cities with rich creative assets like Baltimore," Hoi added.

Planning support for B/CAN was provided by the Surdna Foundation and Baltimore Integrated Partnership, part of Living Cities Initiative and hosted by the Associated Baltimore Area Grantmakers, which enabled regional and national research, as well as community dialogues and feedback. Funding support for Phase I (first three years) has been provided by the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the City of Baltimore, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the Surdna Foundation and the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Maggie Villegas is a Baltimore-based arts and culture producer who formerly developed and oversaw community-driven arts initiatives throughout the city on behalf of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA), including Art @ Work, Neighborhood Lights, Lots Alive, the Baltimore Mural Program and the Transformative Art Prize. Prior to joining BOPA, she co-founded in 2009 the nonprofit arts incubator, EMP Collective, and served as its founding Director until 2014. She has also served as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Bromo Arts District and is a current trustee of Artists for Truth and Awesome Foundation. Villegas holds a B.A. in theatre management from Florida State University and is an M.F.A. candidate in integrated design at the University of Baltimore.