If you’re the slightest bit into DIY, upcycling, and wacky art of any kind or you have kids, you’ll love the American Visionary Art Museum near the waterfront in Baltimore. The museum features self-taught, outsider artists who make art for the love of art. It’s an easy 1-hour drive from DC and well worth the admission charge. I swear, after visiting this museum, I’m never throwing away anything that could be made into a mosaic or sculpture of some sort!
After exiting I-95 to Key Highway, after about .5 mile, the first thing you see when you approach the museum, is the glittering exterior, like a brilliant, giant disco ball. (Thank you to George Krauss for letting us use this photo.)
I can’t begin to describe each of the exhibitions, permanent and temporary. I encourage you to go and see for yourself. Some of the pieces I marveled at were:
- The giant bra ball (like a rubberband ball but made from bras and probably 4 feet in diameter)
- The highly complex construction and ping-pong ball run made entirely of hundreds of thousands of toothpicks and Elmer’s glue (here is a video of the artist describing it)
- The tiny portraits made from embroidery that you view through attached magnifying glasses. And in the café, you can play with a five-story marble run while you’re waiting for seating.
I took photos outside like this one in front of this fantastic mosaic bus.
And in the garden where the kids can sit on the wooden animals.
You can also tour two adjacent warehouses where the museum houses giant sculptures and art cars. The kids will get to run around and likely exclaim with delight like mine did when they saw the giant poodle car, Fifi.
Fifi was one of many human-powered vehicles that appeared in a kinetic machine race that the museum hosts in May. Here’s how the museum describes the race: wacky imaginative, totally human-powered works of art designed to travel on land, through mud, and over deep Harbor waters constructed out of used bicycles, gears, and parts, created by a lunatic genius who tinkers around in the garage or backyard.
Even the gift shop is an adventure. We enjoyed finding treasures from the dollar table. Ana chose a fox pin that made us think of the Fantastic Mr. Fox and a painted clay rock.
I splurged a bit on this set of blocks by Fred and Friends because they’re just so unusual and clever.
Admission to the museum is $15.95 for adults; $9.95 for students/children; free for children under 6. There are a lot of things very young children will yearn to touch, which may make it hard unless you spend most of your time outside and in the warehouses. But it’s easy for families with strollers to navigate inside the museum.