There are times when you must step out of the normal stream of life and find a new path to take. This is not true for all human beings, but it is a fact of life for the curiosity seekers, trail blazers and the inventors of this world.
The American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway, displays the creative side of raw talent from deep within. AVAM, as Baltimorean call it, founded in 1984 by Rebecca Alban Hoffberger (at the time Puharich). Her idea was to create “A unique new museum and education center that would emphasize intuitive, creative invention and grassroot’s genius.” First you must understand that visionary art is spontaneous and individualized because these are self-taught artists. Currently, AVAM has over 4,000 pieces in its permanent collection.
I must admit that I love traditional art but this was a wonderful eye-opening experience. Who knew, (AVAM of course) that such creative possibilities could come from the mind and spirit when you open the doors to freedom? A display by Scott Weaver proves this. “Rolling Through the Bay” is a 100,000 toothpick wonder of a scaled replication of San Fransisco. When ping-pong balls are placed in the display, they travel through iconic symbols of the town. This kinetic sculpture took an estimated 3,000 hours and over 34 years to complete.
Another example of intense creativity is the micro dot sock thread embroideries of Ray Materson. Plagued by drug problems and committing a string of robberies with a toy gun, he was arrested and spent fifteen years in a state penitentiary in Connecticut. To preserve his sanity, he taught himself to embroider with the use of unraveled socks for thread and a sewing needle from a prison guard. His miniatures include 1200 stitches per square inch and measures less than 2.5×3 inches.
Photography is not permitted inside the museum but it isn’t needed because your mind will never forget what it has witnessed. Not all things appeal to everyone but so many pieces displayed will stay with you forever as you wonder “how did they do that?”After completing your tour don’t forget to check out Sideshow. The museum gift shop offers wacky, crazy, fun items to buy.(http://www.sideshowbaltimore.com/SIDESHOWsite/Home.html) If you enjoy all things gourmet, try Mr. Rain’s Fun House on the top floor. It offers a pleasant atmosphere to share with friends or a quite space to gather your thoughts. Mental stimulation, a few gifts for the road and a good meal to top off your visit. That is what AVAM is all about. (Photo credits, AVAM building by Dan Meyers, AVAM-Lusitania, Scott Weaver’s Rolling Through The Bay.”)