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MICA grant to further entrepreneurship among artists

Students at the Maryland Institute College of Art will get the chance to turn their craft into a business after the Baltimore art school was awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation on Monday.

That money will be used to launch Up/Start MICA, a collegewide entrepreneurship program that will work with MICA students and recent graduates.

“For us it’s a natural transition,” said Megan Miller, director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development.

In a survey of graduates MICA found that more than 50 percent of its graduates freelance or work for themselves in some capacity. A 2012 national survey by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project found that alumni wished they had more entrepreneurship training in art school. That information convinced MICA of a greater need for an entrepreneurship program to get students and recent graduates to think about their skill as a business.

“Typically, they (graduates) have a particular skill or interest that they are able to monetize in some way,” said Miller. Those artists also usually work on their craft as a side job on top of a separate day job, she said.

Students go on to open a range of businesses, said Miller, from renovating spaces to run art galleries to running film, video and photography companies to making books, furniture and clothing to developing apps. Some students are also making 3D printers and finding ways to use them in schools.

MICA will use the grant to establish programming and provide guidance, support and tools. The money will also cover $100,000 a year in investment resources, which will be awarded as a maximum of $20,000 in investment capital to five entrepreneurs each year, what Miller described as “dangling a really big carrot” to motivate students to be more serious about turning their craft into a business.

In February, MICA held a pitch competition called Pop Up & Pitch that attracted more than 30 alumni and student applicants. Eight winners from that event will compete for one of the five investment capital awards in April to start or grow their businesses this year, the school said.

The Ratcliffe grant will be adding to existing services available though MICA’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development and Entrepreneurship-In-Residency program.

Last fall, entrepreneur and business owner Monyka Berrocosa was named MICA’s “Entrepreneurship Evangelist. She works with students and alumni to provide business advice, workshops and help get resources and build relationships.

“The grant further cements MICA’s commitment to position our students and alumni for achievement and impact on ever-expanding platforms, and to foster their creativity through entrepreneurship,” said MICA President Samuel Hoi in a statement.

“We are greatly impressed with President Samuel Hoi’s vision to encourage entrepreneurship among the students and alumni at one of the nation’s finest arts and design schools,” said James D. Wright, co-trustee of the Ratcliffe Foundation in a statement. “We believe the school’s creative thinkers are poised to develop some of the most innovative business ideas, and we look forward to a long and rewarding relationship with MICA, and its faculty, staff and students.”