written by Trisha Daigle
The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is home to some of the most eccentric, and unusual art pieces in Baltimore (and possibly the world). A former whiskey barrel warehouse, the physical space espousess the art on display becauof the art is constructed of recycled materials, found objects, and other odds and ends.
Founded as an art space for artists that exist outside the traditional art circles. These innovators are self-taught, have their own vision of art and reject the notion that art/artists should be taught to follow a set of standards. The museum further bucks tradition by one of the only museums in the US started by a woman.
The museum displays art from all over the world, but there’s a certain homage to Baltimore embedded in the architecture and the art. A mosaic of glass stretches across much of the main building, and it is made mostly of Baltimore blue glass, a unique cobalt blue glass once made by the Maryland Glass Corporation in Baltimore. The work was done by artists who are also at-risk youth. These young people are taught the trade of working with glass, and create these mosaics as part of their education. Afterwards, they get jobs maintaining stained glass windows. And anyone who’s walked around this city knows there’s plenty of churches full of stained glass windows to be maintained.
The back building is a full on song to Baltimore. Not in music, but in art. There’s replicas of the stone row houses, and painted screens of Baltimore past, and it houses a few of the kinetic sculptures used in the annual kinetic sculpture race. Oh, and don’t miss the robots getting married!
If one measures a city based on its museums, then AVAM is truly a treasure. The work represents the passion of artists on the fringe, of artist’s misunderstood and dismissed. There’s an unpolished edge to much of the art, but it all has so much heart. Just like Baltimore.