MICA, Nonprofit Developer BARCO Formalize Alliance Through Incubator and Maker Spaces

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Photo via Open Works

A new deal struck between nonprofit developer Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation and the Maryland Institute College of Art will formalize a relationship between the two entities, with direct benefits for MICA students and alumni and Baltimore’s emerging creatives.

A key channel for the deal is Open Works, the $11.5 million maker space that BARCO crafted out of a former warehouse in Greenmount West. As part of the agreement, MICA will partially underwrite up to 30 memberships, classes and studio rentals for students and alumni at the space, and will sponsor five of MICA’s entrepreneurs-in-residence, who will work out of the building for six-month stints.

In exchange, BARCO will offer jobs and internships to qualified MICA students and graduates.

“This is such a natural and a logical coming together,” said MICA President Samuel Hoi in an interview. “BARCO and MICA both share a very deep commitment to fostering the success of Baltimore and its people.”

Open Works and MICA have maintained an informal symbiosis in the nearly eight months since BARCO’s maker space opened. On its campus, the school would promote Open Works’ courses and workshops, such as 3-D printing, metal- and woodworking and textiles, and also provided technological support, said Hoi.

Open Works, meanwhile, offered tools to MICA’s entrepreneurs-in-residence that weren’t otherwise available on campus. “There’s been a friendly flow of collaboration going back and forth,” Hoi said.

The school has also supported Motor House, BARCO’s artist incubator in Station North, by providing security and assisting with technological needs, Hoi said. Motor House will also benefit from BARCO’s formal partnership, though details haven’t been made available. (Motor House staff couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.)

Open Works has looked to MICA for both students and staff since its inception, said general manager Will Holman. The underwriting and entrepreneurs-in-residence agreement will ensure a continued presence of MICA students and alumni at the building on 1400 Greenmount Avenue, he said.

“We think it’s in our mutual interest to attract and retain the best creatives from across the country here to Baltimore and keep them here after they graduate,” he said.

The partnership could also help Open Works’ STEM education initiatives for younger pupils, Holman said. The nonprofit space offers workshops for children in robotics, electronic circuitry and even drone-building, and runs a mobile lab that travels to block parties, festivals and other events.

Holman envisions the partnership as a way to potentially connect new makers from nearby neighborhoods with some of the most talented creators in town.

“We have a vested interest in building these pipelines,” said Holman said. Eventually, he said, Open Works and MICA could build one that “runs from Johnston Square and Barclay to MICA.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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