By Mia White
This November, the Baltimore Museum of Art will open its newly renovated American Wing to the public. This re-opening coincides with the BMA’s 100th anniversary, and so throughout this year the museum is hosting a huge number of events, and throwing a few parties too.
The renovation of the American Wing is part of a $28 million project that has been underway since 2010. The project also encompasses the Contemporary Wing—which opened in November of 2012—and the east entrance and museum shop— which will open on Nov. 1.
The newly renovated American Wing promises to feel almost completely new. It will feature modern lighting, herring-bone wood floors and a new selection of wall colors. Of course, the collection itself will still be recognizable to long-time Baltimore residents. More than 800 works of art, ranging from the 18th to the 20th century, will be on display. Rather than separating one type of art from another, the rooms will be integrated. All varieties of artpainting, sculpture, and decorative art—will be displayed throughout.
Gamynne Guillotte, Director of Interpretation and Public Engagement, added that visitors will also see a broadened narrative on the paneling.
“Curator David Park Curry has focused on placing American art within a larger international context,” Guillotte explained. “[We are] celebrating that which is both local and global about American art.”
Coinciding with the unveiling of the American Wing on Nov. 23 is another exciting re-opening: the museum’s main entrance. Visitors will once again climb the impressive terraced steps, pass between the BMA’s two iconic lion sculptures, and enter the museum through its grand doors, as architect John Russel Pope intended.
Even before the grand opening, Baltimoreans can take advantage of some of the anniversary celebrations. The BMA 100 day celebration began in September and runs through the end of the year, with festivities seemingly occurring daily. Some of the biggest events are member exclusive previews, and others—like the 100th Anniversary Gala or the Party of the Century—require a pricey ticket. Still, the museum is hosting many events that are free and open to the public.
By far the biggest happening though, is the American Wing Opening Celebration, on Nov. 23. If you pick only one event to attend, Guillotte insists the day-long American Wing Opening is certainly the one.
Many of the events include direct interaction with contemporary artists. Michelle Nugent will listen to visitor stories while giving pedicab rides around Wyman Dell as part of an oral history project, Alex Vernon will be making free hand-cut silhouettes, and Brooks Long is organizing musical performances by a slew of local musicians. And if these offerings aren’t enough to get you out of the house on a Sunday, Charm City Cakes will be giving away free slices of a special birthday cake made just for the century-old museum.
Cake aside, the most hands-on occasion is certainly the ceremonial step-scrubbing performance organized by artist Megan Hildebrandt. If you arrive early enough and bring your gloves, you might get a chance to take park in the scrubbing of the Merrick Entrance steps.
The multi-faceted, abundant offerings on the day are part of the BMA’s effort to reach beyond the usual “museum going” community.
Even after the excitement of the BMA’s 100th birthday dies down, the museum will continue to strive for an engaging programming to draw people from throughout the city and beyond.
“In everything that we do, we seek to give people a way to connect with the works in our galleries through the lens of their interests,” Gamynne explained. “So, even if you’re not a regular museum goer, you might attend any of these activities and be surprised by how the art at the BMA relates to what you already know, value, and like.”
And beyond all the interesting programming, the $28 million renovation will continue into the Spring of 2015, when the African and
Asian art galleries will re-open, both offering larger spaces to display these important collections. In the Fall of 2015, the learning and creativity center will open, expanding the museums interactive and educational offerings.
And for the more introverted members of the UB community, remember that since November 2006, the BMA has been free. Once the crowds have died down, drop by on a rainy weekday to explore the museum’s eclectic and impressive collections when the galleries are hushed.
All photos courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.