It was a picture perfect May morning when 49 students from Rock Hall, Galena and H.H. Garnet Elementary Schools and 20 from Kent County Middle School arrived at the the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). Adjacent to Baltimore’s scenic Inner Harbor, AVAM features a unique exhibition of wildly imaginative artworks created by self-trained artists using whatever materials they could find. The artwork reflects the raw creativity and deeply held emotions of its creators, who often share their most personal, compelling and sometimes tragic stories through their work.
AVAM is the “most creative museum in the USA,” said one reviewer. “It’s like no other museum I have ever visited. The American Visionary Art Museum is an extraordinary gem. This place is cutting edge and all its exhibits make you think … deeply. At the same time, its visionary collection makes you smile from ear to ear.“
“The kids had a blast, as did I!” said Aimee Boumiea of her class from HH Garnet Elementary. “For some of the students it was the first time they traveled into Baltimore and none of them had visited the museum before. It was wonderful to see how their faces lit up as we entered the Jim Rouse Visionary Center for the first time and they saw the interactive art, the Baltimore painted screens, and the kinetic sculptures. They were so excited to experience every aspect of the museum from the guided tour to the Mr. Imagination workshop and even the fabulous gift shop.”
“I loved the experience of seeing all of the different types of art that could be created from basic materials,” said fifth grader Aaliyah Dawson.
“I liked the mirrored Cosmic Galaxy Egg mosaic sculpture. It was created using different pieces of mirrors and you could see your reflection in it,” said student Peter Sine.
“I liked attending the workshop because you could create something that a famous artist in the museum created. I made a person out of a paintbrush. My favorite piece in the museum was the ship made our of toothpicks because it showed the dedication artists have for their art,” said student Stewart Hickman.
The trip was sponsored by well-known local artists Ken and Patrica Herlihy, whose generous donation covered the cost of the buses. In looking for a way to share their passion for art with local students, the Herlihys contacted Tom McHugh, founder of the popular Mainstay musical venue in Rock Hall. After retiring as the Mainstay’s director, Tom launched Arts in Motion to solicit grants and donations to fund programs for local students through the Kent County Arts Council. Along with facilitating field trips like the visit to AVAM, Arts in Motion brings accomplished artists, musicians and actors into local public schools to conduct workshops with students.
“The kids had a fantastic time and really enjoyed seeing all the ways to create art, and how we can all be visionaries,” said Kent County Middle School teacher Janet McCormick. “The experiences that these kids have on trips like these help shape them as individuals and as artists. They rarely have chances like these to look at art beyond the classroom and we are very appreciative of the Herlihys’ passion to share the arts with our students.”
“I thought the figures made out of piano pieces were really cool,” said fifth grader Sophie Pierce. “I play the piano and it was neat to see how the inside of a piano became a piece of artwork. I enjoyed learning the story behind the Black Icarus mosaic art too.”
“My favorite art piece in the museum was from the Parenting: An Art without a Manual exhibit. There was a sculpture of a mother reading to her little boy on the couch and then you see the father ready to beat his older brother on the other side of the couch. The story showed the artist’s life as a child and how each individual has their own experience,” said fellow student Kamari Hoxter.
“I loved my time at the AVAM. It’s hard to put it into words. It was AMAZING!” said Kelly Sengprasert-Galanwho, who summed up the excitement shared by her fellow students. “All my friends were there and it made the experience much better to be able to share it with them.”