Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 18: Visionary on the Outside

Cosmic Galaxy Egg!

Two sculptures join forces: Andrew Logan’s “Cosmic Galaxy Egg” and David Hess’ “Bird’s Nest Balcony” welcome you to the birth of a new reality.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

DAY FOUR: Tuesday, July 11th.

We’d spent all of Monday waltzing around the Inner Harbor, diving into local U.S. history but without straying too far the waterside scenery. Tuesday was time to go a little deeper into the surrounding environs and see what else Baltimore had to offer. Our only water taxi ride of the day — after a long wait in the morning sun — carried us to the south end and in the direction of something completely different.

Past the floating restaurant called the Rusty Scupper and through a convoluted parking garage, we headed south toward Federal Hill Park. It’s lush, it’s green, it’s covered in city activity opportunities for kids and adults alike. It’s also, as the name implies, a capital-H Hill, and not a short one. Perhaps it was pretty and lively up there. I couldn’t tell you because we didn’t want to use up all our walking energy before 10 a.m.

Federal Hill Park!

But our view from the garage was nice.

We turned our heads slightly to the left and spotted our first attraction of the day: the American Visionary Art Museum. You see the bricks and hear the words “art museum”, and maybe you’re already either nodding off or setting your monocle in place.

American Visionary Art Museum!

The eye at the top of their log is of course the window to their soul.

Once you approach that tenement-looking drabness, tiny hints of color and oddity peek out the windows, teasing you to come inside. Not until you walk around to the east entrance do you start to comprehend the scope of what you’re about to witness.


The LeRoy E. Hoffberger Shining Youth/Shining Walls Mosaics are a 16-year project (and counting) composed in partnership by the hands of local at-risk youth.

The American Visionary Art Museum was opened in 1995 explicitly as a showcase for amateur artists, non-artists, people from all walks and career tracks yearning to unleash their creative impulses but lacking the art-scene connections to reach an audience. Many are local; virtually none are famous or named in textbooks. Comprising three buildings in all, the AVAM is festooned all around with permanent installations that amuse and perplex even before you’ve had a chance to enter and pay admission.

Galaxy A Go Go!

Also covered in mosaics: the “Galaxy-A-Go-Go” bus created by Nancy Josephson, a longtime musician who used to play bass for Arlo Guthrie.


WE THE PEOPLE is a portion of A Very Visionary Star-Spangled Sidewalk, the brainchild of one Lee Wheeler and impossible to do justice in a single shot.


A “WhirliGig” by Vollis Simpson, a junkyard artist and WWII veteran who passed away in 2013. I understand there’s an entire park full of these in Wilson, North Carolina.

The Universal Tree of Life!

“The Universal Tree of Life” by former classical-music DJ Bob Benson.

Meditation Chapel!

Ben Wilson’s “Meditation Chapel”, the centerpiece of their backyard Wildflower Sculpture Garden.

Meditation Chapel!

Inside the playful Chapel.

pink donkey!

One of several Critters by folk artist Clyde Jones. This may or may not be a pink donkey.

vuvuzela peacock!

A vuvuzela peacock?

cuckoo clock?

A clock of sorts…

big bird!

A big bird guarding the edge of the third building.

Talmud Stargate!

Their official site was enormous help in identifying much of the art and artists, but I couldn’t find clues to this Stargate anywhere. Assuming it’s actually an art fixture and we didn’t stumble onto something bigger here.

…and that’s just some of the art on the outside.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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