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Destination: Imagination

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AVAM’s Main Building

This one-of-a-kind museum opened to the public in 1995 with the simple goal of bringing attention to the “intuitive creative invention” of self-taught artists. In addition to displaying and celebrating all manners of whimsical art, the American Visionary Art Museum brought Kinetic Sculpture Racing to the East Coast in 1999, and operates America’s largest youth-at-risk and youth-incarcerated mosaic apprenticeship program. In fact, these youth are responsible for the museum’s stunning three-story exterior mosaic walls.

Photo by Dan Meyers

Anita Roddick Tall Sculpture Barn

Once the site of the Four Roses whiskey warehouse, the Anita Roddick Tall Sculpture Barn houses a collection of AVAM’s massive sculptural works. The Barn’s 45-foot ceilings easily accommodate artist Lyle Estill’s life-size interactive chess set and William Thomas Thompson’s “The Seven Days of Creation,” comprised of 1,300 square feet of painted panels. The Barn is free during museum hours, and easy to spot thanks to the large neon “LOVE” sign adorning its otherwise plain, brick exterior.

Photo by Paul Burk

Jim Rouse Visionary Center Plaza

Easily identifiable by the oversized bird’s nest perched on its outer wall, the Jim Rouse Visionary Center places an emphasis on “linking creative acts of social justice with the real art of living.” The JRVC is comprised of three levels, and includes The Center for Visionary Thought and Expression, The Hall of Social Visionaries and Visionary Village. Be sure to step onto the Bird’s Nest observation balcony to get a bird’s-eye-view of the plaza and its 8-foot high “Cosmic Galaxy Egg,” created by David Hess. You can also see Federal Hill, Baltimore Inner Harbor, AVAM’s campus buildings and the Wildflower Garden.

Photo by Paul Burk

“Giant WhirliGig” by Vollis Simpson

As Baltimore’s “most beloved outdoor sculptural landmark,” this 55-foot “Giant WhirliGig” is simply a masterpiece. The dramatic, whirling, wind-powered sculpture was created as a salute to Federal Hill and Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness, and is located in AVAM’s Central Plaza. Artist Vollis Simpson is also a mechanic and farmer, and created his first whirligig to power a washing machine while stationed overseas during World War II.

Photo by Jack Hoffberger

“Lusitania” by Wayne Kusy

In 1915, the RMS Lusitania sank to a tragic, watery grave after being attacked by German submarines. Thankfully, this massive replica of the British ocean liner is still very much in tact. It took artist Wayne Kusy 193,000 toothpicks, five gallons of glue and two and a half years of hard work, but after its completion in 1994, the “Lusitania” found a safe, war-free home as part of AVAM’s permanent collection.

Photo by Dan Meyers

“Black Icarus” by Andrew Logan

To Andrew Logan, art is a celebration of human existence. His piece “Black Icarus,” a life-size sculpture and mixed media mosaic, speaks to this philosophy, and hangs in the center of The Marilyn Meyerhoff Stairway to the Stars. The eccentric Logan is also co-creator of the Alternative Miss World contest, which is open to people of all ages, genders and sexual orientations.

Photo by Dan Meyers

“Giant Golden Hand” by Adam Kurtzman

Adam Kurtzman’s “Giant Golden Hand” (inset) plays a central role in AVAM’s outdoor movie series, Flicks from the Hill. The 11-foot sculpture appears to hold a 30-foot wide outdoor movie screen as film-lovers take advantage of the natural amphitheatre formed by Federal Hill. The sculpture itself is on display year round, but arrive on Thursday nights in July or August to watch a free film inspired by AVAM’s most current exhibition. The museum is also open and free from 5 to 9 p.m. on Flicks nights.

Photo by Eric Bruce Salsbery

All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma

All Things Round: Galaxies, Eyeballs & Karma is the 17th-annual mega exhibition at AVAM—a celebration of the “circular and voluptuous” nature of life. The exhibition, which runs through September 2, is completely original and features numerous works, including sacred Huichol yarn paintings and a collection of Frank Warren’s “PostSecrets.” Exhibitions change annually.

Photo by Jill Fannon

Kinetic Sculpture Race

For more than 10 years, AVAM has hosted the annual Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race each May. It covers 15 miles and takes 8 hours, with each human-powered work of art traveling on land and through water, mud and sand. AVAM is the only kinetic sculpture museum in Baltimore and displays the winner of the Art Award year-round. Past winners include: “Bearded Nurses,” “Fifi” and “Shrimptastic.” In reality, the truly wacky, imaginative nature of the Kinetic Sculpture Race simply cannot be described—you’ll just have to go see it for yourself.

Photo by Tom Jones

If seeing a giant pink poodle, life-size interactive chess set or model ship made entirely of toothpicks is on your bucket list, then you better not leave Baltimore without a stop at the American Visionary Art Museum. Viewing this exceptional collection of whimsical art is quite like wandering into the minds of the self-taught artists themselves. Click through the slides to see the museum’s notable creations. Admission: Adults $15.95, Seniors $13.95, Students and Youth $9.95, Children (6 and under) Free —Grace Urban


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