I started my first day in Maryland with a trip to Annapolis. The area I went to was cute, but touristy. It was a really overcast day, which always kills me. That, and the fact that parking was a dollar for like a half hour and traffic around the area was atrocious meant I didn’t stay there very long. I did see a few men in uniform though, which is always nice. I didn’t know where else to go or what else to do so I decided to move along.
At some point I realized I hadn’t paid my credit card bills, or any of my bills really, so I found a Starbucks and did productive adult things. I really need to schedule planning/adulting days into every week, preferably on Mondays so I don’t miss out on so many museums.
After all the grown-up stuff I had to do I wanted to hang out at a park, so I did a Google search, found a park, and drove to it, but couldn’t find a place to wander around. A second Google search brought me to a second park where I also could not find a trail. The second place did have a library, so I decided to just go hang out there instead. As it happens, the library had just closed when I got there. Ok, maybe not. Finally, I drove to Crofton Park where I easily found the trail and got some fresh air and cleared my head. I wandered around for a bit, then sat and swang for a while. It was just what I needed to recharge before heading to my host’s house for the night.
My hosts in Baltimore told me about the free bus in town, the Charm City Circulator, which was soon to be my newest friend. Even after a little research I’m still not entirely sure why the Charm City Circulator is free, but I freaking love it and wish every city had one.
Once again my adventures were threatened to be thwarted by the rain, but I didn’t let getting a little wet stop me. I grabbed my rain coat, suited my backpack up in a rain cover, made sure I had my umbrella, and hitched a ride on my new pal the Charm City Circulator.
One of my hosts could not stop raving about the American Visionary Art Museum and since it was raining, I figured a museum would be a great place to start. I am SO GLAD my host recommended the American Visionary Art Museum. It was fascinating! Much more interesting than a lot of the museums I’d been to lately. According to their website,
Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.
I know often times when I think of art I think of art in a museum, and while this art is in a museum I really appreciate that at its core the art in this museum was made because the artist had to make it, they couldn’t not make it. These artists had no promise or in some cases even hope, of having their art displayed in a museum, or purchased by a collector. Instead they made art because doing so made them happy and the thought of art for art’s sake makes me happy. How inspirational.
There were a lot of really cool pieces at the American Visionary Art Museum, but one of my favorites was an exhibit called Obsessive Compulsive Delight by Ted Gordon:
I think I liked Obsessive Compulsive Delight so much because my doodling has a similar style to Gordon’s work and I don’t know, it validated me or something. I will say I chose almost the exact wrong time to visit the museum though. First, when I entered I crashed a museum lady giving a tour. Normally this wouldn’t be so bad, just walk around, or eavesdrop if it was something interesting, but this lady’s voice… I’m not even sure how to describe it, let’s just say I made a beeline for a different floor. And then the tour followed. So I went back up a floor. And the tour followed again. Seriously?! What gives? I went back to the basement, putting two floors between me and the tour, only to be infiltrated by elementary school kids on a field trip. What. Is. My. Life?! Back up a floor. The kids followed. Second level. Now the kids were creaming and running. Oh great. I have never envied elementary school teachers, now I’m completely floored as to how they get up and go to work every day.
With kids pretty much literally crawling all over everything I decided to go check out the outdoor sculptures and then the second building of art. There must have been multiple field trips. Or else the kids were multiplying. One group was at the outdoor sculpture area so I decided to head straight to the other building. I enjoyed maybe three minutes of museum quiet before a group of third graders burst in and swarmed the place. Sure the place was echoing and they were everywhere, I could’ve dealt with that, but somehow they saw me at the exhibit I was exploring and it was like a bunch of magnets all pulled to my exact spot. It was bad enough when I was a teacher being crowded in my by own students, but kids I don’t know are kind of worse. My magnet flipped, because I was compelled to get away as soon as possible. Eventually the kids left and I was able to check out the exhibit, the Cabaret Mechanical Theater, again. I’m glad I had a chance to explore it solo. It was this display of cool crank puppets, so really it’s no wonder the kids loved them.
After spending a little over two hours at the American Visionary Arts Museum, I left and walked to the top of Federal Hill Park to check out the view of Baltimore. Then I jumped back on the Charm City Circulator and headed up to the Hampden (pronounced with a silent “p”) neighborhood. I cut through the Johns Hopkins campus to get to Hampden. Johns Hopkins has a really nice campus. I was secretly hoping to bump into my friend Becca who’s in grad school there, even though I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be on campus at that time. Alas, no chance meetings happened. Oh well.
I really liked Hampden though. It was cute and quaint. My host had said the Hampden neighborhood was the inspiration for Hairspray, though I haven’t found anything to back that up. She also said I had to get ice cream at the Charmery while I was in Hampden. That I could do. I went in and asked the girl at the counter what she’d recommend. She said, normally she’d go for mint chocolate chip, but that speculoos was also good. I tried a sample of speculoos and was sold. I paid for my kiddie cone and then proceeded to eat it on what had turned into a pretty nice November day while I wandered back toward the Baltimore Museum of Art.
The Baltimore Museum of Art was displaying the works of the 2014 and 2015 winners of the Baker Artist Awards. The Baker Artist Awards are for local Baltimore artists so I figured that would be a good place to start. The first exhibit was by Paul Rucker, a 2015 winner. Walking into the room was so jarring I literally stopped and took a minute to catch my breath. In the right hand corner of the room stood a group of about twenty mannequins in two lines dressed in KKK robes made out of modern day prints like pink and blue camouflage. On the walls above the mannequins were throw blankets depicting scenes of lynchings and one of a figure in a hoodie with an Arizona Tea in one hand, a pack of Skittles in the other, and a target on their chest. The artist said, the “throw blankets depict images of lynching or killing. They capture experiences of extended human atrocity on objects designed for comfort, warmth, and security.” The juxtaposition of comfort and killings was really haunting.
This whole exhibit was incredibly unnerving. For one, I didn’t expect to walk into a museum and see a room full of KKK clad mannequins. Then again, I also wouldn’t expect the police to use excessive force with me, or to die at their hands, not in 2015. But my reality is not everyone’s reality. With the recent media attention on institutionalized racism and racial injustice in the United States it was really powerful to see this exhibit displayed in a museum. I know I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, but when I saw the exhibit it made me wonder who around me might be hiding in plain sight. Who is lurking out there full of hatred and bigotry? Who is willing to hide behind a mask, be it one with a pointy hood, or an anonymous screen, waiting for a moment to strike? It was kind of terrifying to think about.
Behind the adult mannequins, there was a disturbing display of four child sized mannequins wearing KKK attire holding hands in a circle. This also made me stop in my tracks. Are we raising another generation in fear and hatred of those who are different? I certainly hope not. But then I look at the news and see states closing their doors to Syrian refugees and I think, is fear really enough to dehumanize an entire group of people? Apparently it is. What I don’t understand is how something like the attacks on France can happen and people, rather than blaming the individuals responsible, can focus on ONE FACET of a person’s identity and become so paralyzed by fear that they are no longer rational beings. Being a Syrian refugee does not mean someone is a terrorist, being a Muslim does not mean they’re an extremist, just like being a man does not make a person a mass shooter. Individuals commit these atrocities, so can we stop generalizing and scapegoating entire groups of people just because of ONE IDENTITY MARKER?! People are more than just their nationality, or religion, or gender. Why have we forgotten that?