My kids’ ability to ruin a museum outing is legendary. Someone is always unhappy. I’ve been searching for the one-size-fits-all museum experience for our family for years. And dear readers, lean in, because I finally found it.
We recently discovered the museum that has something for everyone. In fact, it’s my new favorite. The American Visionary Art Museum is in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore (close to the Maryland Science Center and literally right next to Federal Hill).
From the museum’s website:
The American Visionary Art Museum is America’s official national museum and education center for self-taught, intuitive artistry. Since its opening in 1995, the museum has sought to promote the recognition of intuitive, self-reliant, creative contribution as both an important historic and essential living piece of treasured human legacy. The one-of-a-kind American Visionary Art Museum is located on a 1.1 acre wonderland campus at 800 Key Highway, Baltimore Inner Harbor. Three renovated historic industrial buildings house wonders created by farmers, housewives, mechanics, retired folk, the disabled, the homeless, as well as the occasional neurosurgeon – all inspired by the fire within. From carved roots to embroidered rags, tattoos to toothpicks, the visionary transforms dreams, loss, hopes, and ideals into powerful works of art.
It is simply enchanting. Attention to artistic detail is seen in every element of the building from the welcome mat made of toothbrushes to the ornamental handrails on the stairs. There are mosaics, whirlygigs, a sculpture garden, paintings, murals, a replica of the Lusitania made of toothpicks and exquisite needlework. There is a mosaic-covered bus, a giant ball made of bras, a tree covered with mirrors, and what is a giant hit with the elementary-school age set, an entire exhibit about farts. (Yes, really.) My favorite exhibit was a set of fabric needlework panels telling the story of a young Polish girl’s survival during the Holocaust. I can’t wait to return to spend more time in that exhibit. My kids can’t wait to operate the fart machine again.
Don’t miss the Jim Rouse Visionary Center Building, which houses the kinetic (moving) sculpture exhibit and a fascinating display and film about one of Baltimore’s old artisanal traditions, painted window screens. The museum also has an awesomely quirky gift shop and a fancy restaurant.
If you are looking to fill the long, not-so-spring-like days of Spring Break, I highly recommend the quick trip up I-95. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays) from 10:00am–6:00pm. Admission rates are $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors, $9.95 for children over age 6. (Children under 6 are free.) (Worth every penny, by the way.)