Name: Camessia Johnson, Assoc. AIA
CivicLAB Class: 2014, 2015
Alma Mater: Morgan State University
Hometown: Fort Washington, MD
Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?
I have always believed that the built environment can be used as a medium for change and inspiration. As a young designer seeking professional growth, I saw participating in CivicLAB as a great networking opportunity. Furthermore, as a graduate of Morgan State University, I am dedicated to sharing my time and talents to promote diversity and inclusion in the fields of architecture, design, real estate, and construction. Morgan’s design curriculum is deeply rooted in community based research and project development. During my time there, I learned to be a steward of the neighborhoods and context in which I live, work, and design.
Since participating in CivicLAB what new Leadership opportunities have you discovered?
As a two year participant in the CivicLAB grassroots and leadership development initiative, my ambition goes beyond entry into the profession and toward a vision of design collaboration, achievement, and leadership at the highest levels. Over the past three years, I have established myself in the design industry as a young leader, mentor, outreach organizer, and volunteer. Participating in CivicLAB inspired me to become an advocate for increasing awareness of careers in the built environment among students and local youth. Shortly after participating, I had the honor of becoming Chair of the Future Architects Resources Committee. We have participated in many events and career days over the years and are proud of the establishment of our Adopt-A-School Program.
I am also involved in several leadership positions outside of the AIA. I am a recent graduate of the ULI Baltimore Young Leaders Partnership Forum. I am also a founding member of the Impressionists Leadership Committee of Art With A Heart. Individuals on this committee have the opportunity to engage in leadership committee only events, with emphasis on professional development. I have had the pleasure of working with high school students through the Baltimore City Hire One Youth Program. I am also an active mentor to several Morgan State students and recent graduates. Ultimately, all of these have been opportunities for me to foster dialog between generations of design thinkers, which will help to enrich our community and support aspiring architects.
How can architects/designers become better Advocates for the profession and the built environment?
I believe that architects and designers can become better advocates for the profession by sharing their time and talents with underserved communities. Attending community meetings and volunteering for community charrettes is a great way to give back and stay connected. Bringing together ideas and individuals from diverse backgrounds is critical for the advancement of the profession. Architecture is unique in that it affords opportunities to contribute meaningfully and embrace the local community. Staying educated and vocal on local policy changes is also a key aspect in our advocacy efforts.
What makes this an exciting time to be a Citizen Architect in Baltimore?
Although originally from Fort Washington, Maryland, I have spent the last eight years of my life learning, working, and exploring around Charm City! I am now a proud resident of the Downtown / Mt. Vernon area and have a vested interest in the growth and development process of Baltimore City. I recently saw an article entitled How Baltimore Quietly Became the East Coast’s Next Cool City. I agree with the article in that Baltimore is full of potential! It is wonderful that people are looking at Charm City in a more positive light. However, it is important that the design community works together toward improvements in the built environment that are innovative, inclusive, and supportive of social equity in public and private spaces. From my experience, it is equally important for existing residents to have a sense of ownership and have pride in their communities while welcoming new. Strengthening the sustainability of neighborhoods should be a the forefront of the City’s revitalization efforts. With these things in mind, a Citizen’s Architect’s role is now more important than ever!
Any hobbies outside of leadership, advocacy, architecture?
In addition to architecture and graphic design I enjoy photography, yoga, pottery, and travel. I also play the trombone!
Interested in participating in CivicLAB? Applications are open through February 2! http://www.aiabaltimore.org/civiclab-2018/