A mobile shelter designed by Dylan Banghart, a new Open Works entrepreneur-in-residence. Photo via MICA.

A new formal partnership between MICA and the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO) is beginning to materialize. Next month, six of the school’s graduates and students will get their own reserved spaces at maker space Open Works to bring their creative, entrepreneurial plans to fruition.

The winners, chosen from a pool of more than 30 applicants, range from an alum designing a line of mobile shelters to newly minted graduates producing sustainably sourced clothing and multimedia jewelry. They’ll have six months to work out of their own spaces and use Open Works’ specialized industrial equipment. Their first day will be June 1.

Trisha Cheeney, who graduated from the school’s interdisciplinary sculpture program this year, is developing an apparel line made from used shopping bags, including windbreakers, insulated jackets and book bags. Her company is called Pälemer.

Cheeney said she had been to Open Works a few times and knew of the space’s informal collaborations with MICA, but found out about the new residency program after being cut from the final round of her school’s competitive Up/Start entrepreneurship challenge.

She said the residency at Open Works offers support to makers like her who have great ideas, but lack the necessary funds to rent expensive industrial equipment.

“It’s hard to afford to be in the place that you need to be as a maker,” she said. “And it’s a daunting task to be doing that on your own, so it’s great to be surrounded by other individuals who are doing that, too.”

In addition to working alongside regulars at Open Works, Cheeney will be with five of her MICA peers and alums. All will making use of the space’s metal- and wood-working tools, 3D printer and other equipment:

  • Byron Banghart ’14, with a degree in social design, is making a “flat pack hanging shelter” using metal fabrication, industrial sewn canvas and CNC-cut parts. The product, which resembles a tiny house, will be sold as part of a kit or as an instructional package. More info here.
  • Gage Branda ‘16 and Sebastian Ruiz ’18, a graduate and a student from the interdisciplinary sculpture program, will build a “compartment and climate control module” to produce a sustainable Mycelium mushroom-root foundation that can replace harmful materials.
  • Dylan Guest ’16, also an interdisciplinary sculpture program graduate, is working on a line of custom game tables, such as one used for billiards. He designed a pool table for his thesis project and “will further develop the functional aspects of the design and will expand the product line” while at Open Works, according to a release from the school. More info here.
  • Izzi Stein ’17, with a degree in general fine arts, is developing PopOpShop, a handmade jewelry, home goods and textiles business with patterned pieces made with laser-cutting, sewing, screen printing and woodworking tools. More info here.

The residence program is part of a larger collaboration between MICA and BARCO, which created Open Works out of a former warehouse near Station North. School president Samuel Hoi previously said Motor House, also a BARCO incubator space, will be part of the collaboration.

To makers from the school, it’s a sign of support from the city for graduates planning to make it own their own.

“It’s really great of Baltimore to try to be active in having spaces for artists and makers,” Cheeney said.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...