Agenda items for the BMA

October 26, 1999|By Bennard Perlman

WELL into her second year on the job, Baltimore Museum of Art director Doreen Bolger is creating quite a buzz about her ambitious agenda for the museum, including a redesign of the museum's galleries.

She has already broken with the past by restoring the original gilt frames to the Cone Collection's Impressionistic paintings -- a clear bow to local tastes.

As Ms. Bolger moves forward, there are several other areas of local concern that I hope she considers:

Open the BMA on Mondays. Baltimore's three major museums -- the Museum of Art, the Walters Art Gallery and the American Visionary Art Museum -- are all closed on Mondays.

This is particularly grating for patrons who wish to visit on federal holidays, when many parents are off from work and children are out of school.

Establish a permanent gallery for the display of works by Maryland artists. There are plenty of sources, such as the now-closed Peale Museum, including its extensive collection of photographs by A. Aubrey Bodine, a long-time photographer for The Sun, the BMA's own collection of Maryland art and many others.

Sponsor an exhibit of works by regional artists. The elimination of the annual Maryland Artists Show at the BMA and the biennial shows of Maryland artists in the 1980s severed ties between the museum and the local art community.

It is encouraging that Ms. Bolger has already gone on record as seeking to repair the damage, but reinstating the annual or biennial exhibits is unlikely because the museum does not have the space to judge and exhibit a representative cross-section of the burgeoning number of fine artists in the area.

A solution may be to follow the lead of Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art which sponsored a regional exhibit last year, featuring works chosen by regional curators and shown at 11 sites throughout Washington.

Reinstate the BMA's artists' committee, which last met in 1971. It was composed of a representative from each of the area's art groups, plus a number of "artists-at-large."

What better way to have input from the diverse artistic community?

Make BMA Today, the members' publication, more substantial. In recent years, it has been reduced to a mere directory of exhibits and lectures. This information is, of course, essential, but it could also include at least one lengthy article per issue regarding works in the BMA's permanent collection.

All of these suggestions are designed to help the BMA's goal of expanding its audience, strengthening its exhibitions and educational programs, and repairing ties to the local art community.

Bennard Perlman was chairman of the BMA's artists' committee in the late 1960s.

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