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Capitalizing on Baltimore's creative strength

The Baltimore Sun
December 27, 2015

When I moved to Baltimore 18 months ago to serve as president of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), I came with a conviction that the city's vigorous arts scene and creative endeavors could play an essential role in building a brighter future for Baltimore.

I see how this happens every day on and around MICA's campus, as the Station North Arts and Entertainment District area has been transformed into a new arts hub. In a gritty neighborhood that has historically been neglected, art, design, music, architecture and film are injecting new vibrancy and hope. Creative and social entrepreneurs are establishing enterprises in repurposed spaces, alongside long-time residents — all, together, taking pride in vividly painted murals and gardens around them.

The arts can spur so much for a city.

Our city continues to be the focus of national scrutiny and attention. Perhaps because of this, the Aspen Institute Arts Strategy Group, which has been convening periodically to discuss and advance arts-based policies, recently came to Baltimore. In partnership with MICA, the Aspen Group convened over two dozen local and national arts and culture leaders, practitioners and philanthropists. Over two days, with site visits and frank discussions, the group considered the power of the arts and concurred on its potential to strengthen our city's future. The national leaders came away with a more nuanced and positive view of Baltimore than what has been portrayed lately in the media.

At the Baltimore Design School, we witnessed the result of public and private sectors coming together to reclaim a vacant building, bringing design thinking into the public education system. It is now a stunning architectural site that welcomes hundreds of students to a creative education, resulting in opportunities that otherwise would have been unavailable.