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Art Can Be Found At Closed BMA

Credit John Lee
The Sculpture Gardens at the BMA

The Baltimore Museum of Art remains closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the BMA is making changes on its grounds and putting local artists on display on its website, so the artist and art lover can still have what the director of the BMA calls “access to joy.”

Kate Breen and her 13-year-old daughter, Tess, were trying to find joy in the BMA’s outdoor sculpture gardens.

“My daughter loves art,” Breen said. “This is the only way that we can see it right now is to see it outside.”

Breen said she’s been inside the BMA on Art Museum Drive many times, but this is the first time she’s made it to the gardens, which sit on three wooded acres next to the building and have more than 30 modern and contemporary sculptures.

“I guess it’s a silver lining, like you can’t go inside and then you find a gem like this outside,” Breen said.

The sculpture gardens date back to the 80s, but there are new things to do and to see on the BMA campus.

You can grab a snow ball and a hot dog outside the gardens’ gate at The Snow Cone Sisters stand.

Nathan Jones was waiting for his order. He and his girlfriend moved to Baltimore about a month ago.

“Literally just walked over here,” Jones said. “We were wondering if the museum was open, and we saw some signs so we just walked on over.”

One of those signs reminds you to wear a face mask and stay at least six feet apart.

Make your way to the other side of the BMA grounds, past the closed entrance adorned with Black Lives Matter and Can We Breathe banners to the Spring House that was designed by Benjamin Latrobe in 1812. Slaves worked in the Spring House in the 19th century.

Today, the Star Spangled Banner plays inside. It’s the soundtrack for an animated video projected on a wall of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players’ silent pregame protests against police brutality.

“One avenue we’re exploring is ways in which we can extend the fulsome experience of art to people without asking them to cross the threshold into the museum,” said Christopher Bedford, the director of the BMA.

Bedford said another way the museum is trying to connect people with art is on its website, where some Baltimore-based galleries can display digital art they have for sale. It’s called Salon. So far, more than 5,500 people have visited the site.

Bedford asked, “If people don’t have access to that kind of joy as a consequence of this moment, if they can’t go to a gallery, if they can’t go to a museum, and artists are still making the work, how do you connect the one with the other to sustain that feeling?”

Goya Contemporary, a gallery in Hampden, is displaying its art on Salon through the BMA’s web site, and in other ways as well.

Goya is open to visitors, but by appointment and with restrictions. The gallery represents artists who live in Baltimore and throughout the world.

Executive Director Amy Eva Raehse said making art available digitally is a useful and necessary alternative. But she said it’s not the ideal way to experience art.

“It’s meant to be seen where you are in physical proximity to that object. The object itself has dimension,” Rashse said.

“I have to admit that sales have been kind of slow,” said Trace Miller, an artist who lives in Towson. Goya represents him.

Miller said he works in oils on canvas and paper and is also a collage artist.

Miller said one benefit from the pandemic is fewer distractions.

“The studio is there and it’s a solitude practice, a solitary practice so I’ve found it to be really productive,” Miller said.

Miller received $1,000 from Baltimore County. It was part of a grant offered to artists who have been struggling because of the pandemic. Miller said that came “at just the right time.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2