A life of visions Inner Harbor: New museum's inaugural show closes Sept. 1

new exhibit opens Oct. 10.

August 25, 1996

THESE ARE THE final days of "The Tree of Life." When the inaugural exhibit of the American Visionary Art Museum closes at 8 p.m. Sept. 1, never again will those unusual works by self-taught artists be shown under one roof.

Since it opened on Key Highway in late November, some 50,000 visitors have paid the $6 admission fee to see the opening exhibit's 400 pieces. They have stood in awe in front of the 16-foot scale model of the ocean liner Lusitania (made from 193,000 toothpicks) and admired the 55-foot whirligig created by a 76-year-old mechanically inclined farmer. Most visitors have been inspired, including media representatives. "One of the most fantastic museums anywhere in the world," gushed a CNN correspondent. The Economist of London called it America's "most innovative" museum.

The American Visionary Art Museum is an unusual venture. Although it cost $7 million to build, the privately run museum was able to open free of debt. Director and founder Rebecca Alban Hoffberger is now busy with long-range planning. Her ambitious goal is to have a $10 million endowment by next year so the museum can expand.

Oct. 18 is the opening day of the museum's new exhibit, "Wind in My Hair." Interpreting the theme are 109 self-taught artists. Their 400 works include whirligigs, flying machines, cars painted in artistic colors, freak storms and athletic fantasies. " 'Wind in My Hair' is about our starting out swinging from the trees and ending up flying to the moon," explains Ms. Hoffberger. The concluding part of the trilogy, "The End is Near," deals with apocalyptic visions and will open a year from now.

The American Visionary Art Museum is Baltimore's most exciting new exhibit venue. Its inaugural exhibition contains both whimsical and powerfully moving items. It provokes smiles and causes reflection. It should not be missed.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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