Mayors' Institute on City Design

Guiding mayors to purposeful, positive city transformation.

MICD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors.

Through a variety of collaborative sessions, programs, and resources, we educate mayors on city design and connect them with a diverse network of design leaders who help them overcome challenges and solve problems. As our program has proven, when we lead with design, we lead the way to purposeful, positive transformation in our communities.

“A city should be a place where the hearts of all citizens can sing.”

The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

Founder of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design
Mayor, Charleston, SC (1975 - 2016)

We believe that all well-designed cities have three key characteristics.

  • 01

    They’re resilient.

    Cities should be resourceful, sustainable, and regenerative – providing a healthy home for current and future generations.

  • 02

    They’re equitable.

    Cities should offer accessible housing, transportation, and economic mobility for all.

  • 03

    They thrive.

    Cities should enrich everyday life with beauty, connection, and opportunities for fulfillment.

Our Programs

We offer highly collaborative in-person sessions, fellowship programs, virtual learning, and more to educate on everything from historic building restoration to equitable development to neighborhood revitalization.

Institute Sessions

Institute Sessions are the core of MICD. At these collaborative workshops, mayors engage with design leaders to find solutions to the most critical planning and design challenges facing their cities. Sessions are organized around case study projects: Each mayor presents a project from their city and receives feedback from other mayors and design leaders.

eligibility

Participation at Institute Sessions is by invitation only. To express interest in a future invitation, please contact us.

Time Commitment

Institute Sessions consist of a site visit with the session host team prior to the session, preparing a 15-minute presentation about the selected project, and the 2.5 day session. Mayors are expected to attend the entire session, as participation is extremely limited.

Location

Institute Sessions are hosted around the country, with a new host city being announced with each session.

MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship

The MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship is a unique, highly interactive, semester-long program that brings together a small group of mayors and their staff to directly tackle injustices in each of their cities through planning and design interventions.

Eligibility

MICD Just City Mayoral Fellows are selected based on an open call for expressions of interest in the months before the Fellowship begins. Each cohort is curated with different themes, commonalities, and city sizes in mind. Selected mayors identify two key staff members to take part in the weekly classes and all virtual components of the Fellowship.

Time Commitment

Weekly one-hour meetings featuring lectures and case study work along with a three-day closing symposium to conclude the event.

Location

Virtual and in-person (location varies)

Virtual Seminars

Virtual Seminars are engaging and interactive learning and discussion opportunities for small groups of mayors. Each one-hour seminar features a deep-dive presentation on a single timely topic from a design expert, followed by a moderated group discussion among the attending mayors.

Eligibility

MICD Virtual Seminars are open to mayors and their staff (MICD alumni and non-alumni welcome). Mayors are invited to participate in the live video discussion after the presentation, while staff attend in view-only mode. A recording of the presentation portion is made public after the event. Registration is required.

Time Commitment

MICD Virtual Seminars are one hour long, typically structured as a 30-minute presentation followed by a 30-minute non-public, moderated discussion among the attending mayors.

Location

Virtual

Alumni Assistance and Advising

MICD Alumni Assistance and Advising programs help alumni mayors continue addressing the complex challenges facing today’s cities, beyond the traditional MICD Institute Session model. In the current pilot program, MICD matches recent alumni mayors with a pair of nationally renowned design experts to advise the mayor on their selected city design challenge.

Eligibility

2023 MICD alumni mayors are eligible for the current pilot round. Some rounds may be geared toward alumni of specific programs, such as the MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship, while some engagements begin with an open call for interest.

Time Commitment

Mayors will hone in on a key question or issue that would most benefit from follow-up assistance. Once the Resource Team selection is made by MICD, the mayor and their staff will participate in two 60-minute virtual meetings to explore solutions and next steps.

Location

Virtual

Bruce Bolling Building, Roxbury, MA | Sasaki, Anton Grassl/ESTO Explore past MICD projects

Our Leadership

MICD is a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors.

National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States.

The United States Conference of Mayors

The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are nearly 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Our Team

We work with one purpose – to help mayors improve people's lives through the power of design.

Trinity Simons Wagner

Executive Director
Mayors' Institute on City Design

Trinity Simons Wagner has served as the Executive Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) since 2012. She’s dedicated to helping mayors lead with design, move boldly, and foster equitable outcomes through policy. At MICD, she’s worked directly with 500+ mayors and moderated 75+ Institute Sessions, the Institute’s flagship program connecting mayors with design leaders on the nation’s most pressing urban planning and design challenges.

More

Grace Oran

Program Director
Mayors' Institute on City Design

Grace Oran has served as the Program Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) since 2022 and has been with the Institute since 2017. She’s passionate about empowering mayors to lead with design, and she believes in the power of local governments to embed justice and equity into the fabric of their city.

More

Ethan Mazzio

Events and Communications Coordinator
Mayors' Institute on City Design

Ethan Mazzio has served as the events and communications coordinator for the Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) since 2022. In his role at MICD, Ethan manages web and social media content, assists in communications and scheduling with participants, and coordinates logistics for the Institute’s in-person and virtual programming.

More

Our History

In January 1985,

then-Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. of Charleston, SC wrote a letter to Jaquelin T. Robertson, then-Dean of the University of Virginia School of Architecture, suggesting that an institute be created in which mayors would meet with prominent designers to discuss design challenges facing their cities. Subsequently, they visited Adele Chatfield Taylor, then-Design Director at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the NEA’s Mayors’ Institute on City Design (MICD) was born. On October 23, 1986, the first Mayors’ Institute on City Design session was hosted at the University of Virginia.

The core of MICD’s work is still in these Institute Sessions, which are held several times a year throughout the country. In much the same format as the first session in 1986, mayors engage leading design and development experts to find solutions to the most critical planning and design challenges facing their cities. These two-and-one-half day sessions are organized around case study projects: each mayor presents a project from their city and receives robust feedback from other mayors and design professionals.

Since the program’s inception, over 1,200 mayors have participated in MICD sessions.

Many mayors have described their MICD experience as among the most influential and memorable events of their time in office, and Resource Team members – volunteers who receive a modest honorarium – often remark that they learned as much from the mayors as the mayors learned from them.

In 1991,

MICD began partnering with universities and design-
related nonprofits around the country to host additional MICD sessions.

In 2007,

MICD responds to times of need with special programming. A special session of MICD was held for Gulf Coast cities to assist with recovery from Hurricane Katrina. In 2013, a similar session was held for New Jersey mayors following Superstorm Sandy.

In 2011,

for MICD’s 25th anniversary and 50th National Session, some 300 mayors, design professionals, government officials, business leaders, and others met in Chicago for a National Mayors Summit on City Design.

Since 2016,

MICD has been operated by the United States Conference of Mayors under a cooperative agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2020,

MICD launched new programming to expand access to design education for mayors and better serve alumni mayors:

  • MICD Just City Mayoral Fellowship
  • Alumni Technical Assistance
  • Virtual Seminars

Awards

2021

Founders’ Award, Landscape Architecture Foundation

View Award
2000

Presidential Award for Design Excellence, White House

View Award
1997

Progressive Architecture Award, Architecture Magazine

1992

Institute Honor Award, American Institute of Architects

Explore Past MICD Projects

Projects