How Grassroots DesignFest lent collaborative, creative expertise to Baltimore nonprofits - Baltimore


How Grassroots DesignFest lent collaborative, creative expertise to Baltimore nonprofits

More than 90 designers and team members from 21 nonprofits came out for the Saturday event hosted by MICA and the T. Rowe Price Foundation.

Inside Grassroots DesignFest 2019 at MICA.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Editor's note: More details about the makeup of event attendees have been added. (3/7/19, 3:30 p.m.)
It was a match made in creative heaven.

Open Works provides access to the tools and equipment that can help teams create new products, and on Saturday, team members worked with a group of designers on a new multi-page document that can serve as a guide to the makerspace and provide a way to access descriptions of its offerings.

Inside an office at MICA’s 81 Mosher Building, a team that included Samantha Borowy of T. Rowe Price, Kat Hartley of MICA’s Graphic Design MA program and Sean Berg of Sean S. Berg Design worked with Open Works on the document’s content, design, layout and more. In a single day, they aimed to make progress on the piece that Open Works Membership Manager April Lewis said might take many iterations in-house.

“This is an opportunity to get a professional opinion,” said Lewis. “And we’ll be able to use it as a tool.”

It was one of about 20 teams that gathered Saturday, March 2, as part of Grassroots DesignFest. Organized by MICA and the T. Rowe Price Foundation, the second edition of the event offered free design assistance to local nonprofits from about 90 professional designers — including several MICA alums and some faculty, plus over a dozen T Rowe Price employees — and students from local colleges.

Among the 21 orgs were Homeless Persons Representation Project, Social Work Community Outreach Services, Baltimore Teacher Supply Swap, Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance and Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District.


Many of these community organizations don’t have designers on staff, but can benefit from a new logo or marketing piece to tell their story and increase awareness as well as participation. As with the Open Works team, the goal was for organizations to walk away with foundational work they can build on.

“We want to give designers an opportunity to give back to the community, and to provide some really vital assistance to nonprofits that are doing great work in the community,” said Kevin Griffin Moreno, MICA’s director of strategic projects.

For many of the designers, it represented a way to get outside day-to-day work and offered a chance to support local organizations working on arts and culture, education, human services and the environment.

“Hearing about that passion, you can’t not bring that into the work you’re doing,” said Borowy.

And for the graduate and undergraduate students from MICAStevenson University, McDaniel College, Bowie State University, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Johns Hopkins, it was also a chance to build skills.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with more experienced designers and do something that has a more practical application,” said Hartley.

The day also featured workshops for nonprofits while the designers worked. It’s all an extension of work by the T. Rowe Price Foundation to provide capacity-building events for local nonprofits that’s been ongoing since 2016 and has supported 200 organizations. The design focus represents a strength for both the company that supports the foundation, as well as Baltimore.

“We at the T. Rowe Price Foundation believe strongly that art and design are an inextricable part of building a healthy, vibrant community, and today is a perfect example,’  said foundation President John Brothers.

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