American Visionary Art Museum

800 Key Highway Baltimore, MD 21230

happyly approved

A museum and education center for self-taught and intuitive artistry.

The American Visionary Art Museum is America’s official national museum and education center for self-taught and intuitive artistry.  It’s unlike any museum you’ve been to and embodies the slightly off centered character of Baltimore City through its unconventional and eye popping artworks.  You’re in for an eyeful when simply driving by the place on Key Highway. This is one museum that doesn’t believe in hiding all its treasures away inside.  

AVAM opened its doors in 1995 and serves to promote the recognition of self taught artists; folks like farmers, housewives, mechanics, retirees, the disabled, the homeless and even a neurosurgeon.  Housed in historic buildings along Baltimore’s historic Inner Harbor, it also serves as a focal point for an outing that can include a plethora of shops and restaurants making the trip worthy of at least a full day of exploration, all within walking distance.  

The museum has some permanent pieces on the 1st and 2nd floors of the main building as well as the pieces housed in separate buildings like the Jim Rouse Visionary Center.  Here you’ll find The Cabaret Mechanical Theater of London, a collection of interactive automata operated by buttons that will surely keep the kids entranced for a bit. You can also see some vehicles from Baltimore’s Kinetic Sculpture Race housed here.  

Throughout the grounds you’ll find sculptures (some as tall as four stories!) and a wildflower sculpture garden.

The museum is completely serviced by elevator making stroller navigation simple but a trip up the spiral stairs centered in the main building is by far the most eye catching way to get from level to level.  

The top floor of the main level has restaurant space, but as of writing this article they’re in between tenants.  Take a peek inside whether you’re able to eat there or not though, even the interior of the dining room is a work of art.

Though this space provides meaningful contemporary works of art for all to see, be sure to do some research before you visit to make sure the rotating exhibits are appropriate for little ones.  They can occasionally depict mature themes that you may or may not be ready to share with young kids. 

And finally, either on your way in, or on your way out, be sure to stop in AVAM’s gift shop, Sideshow (aptly named).  You’ll be able to pick up the usual museum store fare such as art books, jewelry and toys, but the theme of the store’s inventory most definitely matches the spirit of the museum.

AVAM is surely the most unique museum that Baltimore has to offer and is arguably one of the most innovative museums in the country. If you're visiting Baltimore, it's worth it to put it on your short list of places to see. If you're a Baltimore native and you've never been, we highly recommend stopping by!

Matthew Raspa
Baltimore, MD
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