Thursday, September 12, 2013

Keep It Local: American Visionary Art Museum

We haven't been intentionally sleeping on Balto, but I think our recent trip to the Maryland Science Center showed mom that she was comfortable enough driving up and back with the two of us by herself in between rush hours. Because almost as soon after we got back from our science museum trip, we hopped back in the car to hit up the American Visionary Art Museum, about which we've heard so many good things. Just what is visionary art, you ask? You can check out AVAM's quirky website for a great definition, but it essentially is intuitive, self-taught artistry. Sweet. That sounded right up our alley.

And the whole thing was very, very sweet. Spread out through three buildings, visitors are met in the first building with a moving, three-story sculpture of Icarus flying to the sun and falling down to earth. I about jumped out of my skin and knew I was in the right place. We spent some time perusing the permanent and visiting exhibitions inside, but we both really wanted to get outside and see the sculpture.

And we played for a long time in the wildflower garden until I remembered that mom had promised there was a life-sized interactive chess game! We found it in the barn, but the pieces were all pushed in a corner. No worries. Security nicely came in and moved the heavy metal sculptures out onto the chess board for us. It was just like I was in Harry Potter.

Next, we moved on to the third building -- the Visionary Center, which houses a super cool collection of kinetic sculptures. Mom was really interested in these, but we didn't give her much of a chance to look. We wanted to go up and check out the outdoor bird's nest and, once on the top floor, turned the super awesome event space into our own personal dance studio. Mom bumped our requested tunes and we did some ballet dancing, Irish step dancing, and a little breakdancing for good measure. For at least 25 minutes. Seriously.

Mom finally convinced us to go outside so we could check out the artists painting a sidewalk mural in front of the museum. Turns out they were installing a scenic depiction of the Star Spangled Banner. We traded some good mural stories with the artists (our love of hidden street murals has continued to grow since our geocaching tour this summer) and can't wait to go back and see it all finished up.

We were all set to go when Cami asked if we could go back in and look at the gift store, The Sideshow Stop. Now, as a general rule, if an activity itself costs money (the museum does charge an admission fee, but kids 6 and under are free), we don't get to pick out a souvenir. But because mom could see that this was the most fabulous (and completely reasonable) gift shop EVA, she made an exception. It reminded her very much of the toy store she used to visit on her summer vacations (The Beaver Island Toy Museum), just a little updated and hipsterfied. Bins of groovy and outrageous sunglasses. Vampire baby dolls (I really wanted one). Bizarre hats. It was next to impossible to narrow our choices. I ended up with two books: V is for Vampire and a Dracula pop-up book (take a wild guess as to what our entire family is going to be for Halloween). Cam? A pink parasol, obvi.

The museum (and gift store!) are 100%+ worth the drive up to Balto. Loved, loved, loved.

(technically, no photos are allowed INSIDE the museum. we snuck a few choice ones, but the others were all taken in permitted spots).

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