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MICA plots new community arts building at EBDI

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is opening a community arts center in East Baltimore that will expand its graduate programs and hopefully boost its relationship with the community.

The school is spending $1.2 million to renovate the 24,000-square-foot building at 814 N. Collington Avenue, funding for which came from the Rouse Co. Foundation, the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation and an anonymous trustee. MICA expects the center, the former St. Wenceslaus School, to open mid-September.

Called MICA Place, the space will host graduate courses in community arts and social design and community meetings. It will also contain art studios, a computer laboratory, exhibition space and graduate apartments.

The center will allow students to use their art in a way that engages the community, says Ray Allen vice president of academic affairs and provost.

For instance, students pursuing a Master's in Community Arts might work with youth in East Baltimore to learn photography and use the art as a medium for reflecting on the issues facing the neighborhood, Allen says.

"I had it in my head that art and design could be put at the service of increasing the quality of life in the community," Allen says. "We can engage the community is a much richer way."

MICA has had a stake in East Baltimore for a decade, as part of a collaboration called the MICA/JHU Design coalition. Johns Hopkins University researchers tap the design expertise of MICA students to create graphics to deliver public health messages.

MICA is leasing the building from nonprofit East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit that oversees the massive biotechnology park and residential development near Johns Hopkins Hospital.

"It's a wonderful building in East Baltimore," Allen says. "It will be a great place where people in the community can brought in."

Having a physical presence in the community will give MICA visibility and credibility, Allen hopes.

"This will give us community trust, that we're not some elitist outside organization visiting," he says.  "At the end of the day, education is our mission. Art is our vehicle for doing it."

Read more of Bmore's education coverage.

Source: Ray Allen, Maryland Institute College of Art
Writer: Julekha Dash
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