Author Archives: Anne Brown

About Anne Brown

Anne Brown is the BMA’s Sr. Director of Communications & Marketing. She is a culturally curious night owl and Francophile who adores cats, swing dancing, gardening, and yoga.

Melting Art

FORTY YEARS AGO, on August 6, 1977, The Baltimore Museum of Art gained national attention when artist and poet John Kinsley erected a 15-ton, 64-ft.-long ice sculpture of the word MELT on the front steps.

John Kinsley's Revenge on the Winter of '77, The Baltimore Museum of Art, August 6, 1977

Artist John Kinsley in front of “The Revenge on the Winter of ’77” on the front steps of the BMA, August 6, 1977.

Kinsley’s three-dimensional, one word poem, “MELT,” was titled The Revenge on the Winter of ’77. Much like the rest of Baltimore, Kinsley was thrilled to be finished with the terribly bitter cold of the past winter. As an artist, he longed to express his feelings through his art. He chose to combine his love of poetry with his interest in sculpture, allowing the words of the poem to “do what they say.”[i] It was the time of participatory art: art that demands to be touched, felt, read, and most importantly, enjoyed.[ii] After convincing the BMA to allow him to install his work, Kinsley spent $3,000 to bring his poem to life that summer.

Media interviewing artist John Kinsley.

Media interviewing artist John Kingsley.

Word got out about Kinsley’s ambitious project and news crews, journalists, and radio hosts from all over the country came to witness the brief poem. People magazine hired a cherrypicker crane to get a full-view shot of the sculpture.

BMA Senior Registrar Melanie Harwood remembers all the commotion leading up to and during the installation. “[Kinsley] couldn’t get the ice he needed right before the big day.” August 6 was the third choice of date for the artist. A massive flood and heat wave depleted the city’s ice supply, forcing Kinsley not only to reschedule the event, but also to look to Wilmington for an ice supplier.[iii] Kinsley laughed at the irony of the weather dictating the premier of his art, when it was the unruly winter weather that had been the inspiration. He had hoped the sculpture would last four days, but the high temperatures of the day quickly melted the ice. Harwood also recalled the dilemma with the excess of melted water: beneath the front steps was where the BMA used to house the museum’s offices, and this excess water was leaking right onto them.

Artist John Kinsley directing the ice crew with Melanie Harwood observing in the background.

Artist John Kinsley directing the ice crew with Melanie Harwood observing in the background.

This new type of art was unfamiliar to many Baltimore residents, and thus the work was regarded with skepticism. Some viewers found the actual melting of the ice less stimulating. A few viewers even wanted to drink the melted ice, rather than watch it “wastefully” melt away.[iv] Another remarked that this art seemed “alive” rather than “hung up and dead,” referring to the art typically exhibited inside the museum.[v]

Visitors viewing the recently completed MELT sculpture.

Visitors viewing Kinsley’s recently completed MELT sculpture.

By  the end of the day, the sculpture was set and the ice had begun to disperse, along with the crowd. The spectacle was over, the initial excitement gone, and so Kinsley’s work was left to melt away on its own.  Kinsley lost count of all the interviews he had given in the past few weeks, and expressed his feelings of relief after the art’s completion. Today all that survives of this art of the photographs taken, and the memories held on to by its spectators.

–Amanda Witherspoon


[i] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[ii] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[iii] Jones, C. (1989). Back Tracks: A One Word Poem in Ice. The Baltimore Sun.

[iv] Schidlovsky, J. (1977). Poem in ice that says “Melt” does just that outside Baltimore Museum. The Baltimore Sun.

[v] Schidlovsky, J. (1977). Poem in ice that says “Melt” does just that outside Baltimore Museum. The Baltimore Sun.


Spitting Images

For all of the spectators at the BMA and online who got a glimpse of last Saturday’s Areas for Action event with artist Oliver Herring, here is an interview with two of the participants, Lulu Bao and Kel Millionie, who share what the experience was like for them:

What inspired you to participate in this art event?

Lulu Bao - half-way through her Areas for Action experience

Lulu Bao – half-way through her Areas for Action experience

LULU: It was the email I received from BMA Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Sanchez mentioning the wall painting with Oliver Herring. The image of being part of the art project came in to my mind suddenly, then I thought I couldn’t miss the chance to have this unique life experience. I wanted to step a bit out of my comfort zone and embrace something I have never done before.

KEL: I’ve been an admirer of Oliver Herring’s work since before we acquired his Areas forAction portfolio of videos and portraits in 2011. I wanted to experience his art from the perspective of a participant vs. a spectator or viewer.

Were you surprised by how often you were directed to spit on each other? How would you describe that experience?

LULU: I was not very surprised because I watched some videos of Areas for Action on YouTube before the event. I think the experience created an intimate connection between us as volunteers, as well as with the artist and the audience. Some key words in my mind to describe my experience would be: excited, open-minded, and emotional.

KEL: I was not surprised at how many times I was spat upon or spat onto others.

Kellan Johnson (l) and Kel Millionie (r) in Areas for Action.

Kellan Johnson (l) and Kel Millionie (r) in Areas for Action.

I’ve watched many of Oliver Herring’s videos and they show this as part of the process. Regarding being spat upon: at first it is quite jarring, cold, and shocking to be spat upon so forcefully.  Many people have said they find it “gross” or “unsanitary,” but I did not feel it was either.

How has participating in the event as a volunteer change the experience for you?

LULU: Becoming part of the art performance gave me a chance to understand the artist’s thoughts from a different angle. By transferring my identity from an art viewer to a member in the performance, I felt more involved. I asked the artist about his thinking of controlling and losing control during the process because for most of the time we were trying to do the things as he wanted, but at some points we were able to choose colors or areas that we wanted to spray. There was some certainty and some uncertainty of this event outcome and I don’t think I would have considered that if I hadn’t been part of the experience.

KEL:  I find his process of directing volunteers to create his art familiar because I am a theater director and designer and often tell performers how to move and behave in controlled spaces.


Artist Oliver Herring directing Areas for Action volunteers.

What was your favorite moment?

LULU: I love the moment when I was asked to climb to someone’s shoulder, because at that moment I had to trust someone I just met.  I memorized the feeling of holding his hands and trusting the artist and my partner so well even several days after the event.

KEL: Looking in the mirror after the four-hour experience was over.

Do you have any advice for future Areas for Action volunteers?

LULU: I would suggest future volunteers to go to restrooms right before the performance and get ready for not going there for hours (like a half-day). 🙂  Also, it is necessary to get used to bare feet because wet socks won’t feel good if you have to step into the colored water. Trying not to laugh while having water in your mouth is important, otherwise, you may choke, which can be a bit unpleasant.

KEL: Give in!

Interview with Matisse/Diebenkorn Curator Katy Rothkopf

In October, the BMA will present the first major exhibition to show the profound influence of French artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954) on the work of American artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993). Co-organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this ambitious exhibition builds on the BMA’s reputation for presenting new scholarship on Matisse inspired by the collection. More than 90 artworks—most loaned from museums and private collections in the U.S. and Europe— will reveal Diebenkorn’s deep connection to Matisse, and present a new view of both artists.

katy_sjs2875_cropSenior Curator of European Painting & Sculpture Katy Rothkopf tells us about her work on this landmark exhibition.

What inspired Matisse/Diebenkorn?
When I began to think about the influence of Matisse on subsequent generations, the first artist that came to mind was Diebenkorn, whose work I knew from The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. I began to explore the idea more seriously after seeing two drawings by each artist in the BMA’s collection, which were very similar yet created 40 years apart. Although the influence of Matisse on Diebenkorn had often been discussed in art literature, their works had never been presented together in a major exhibition.

Were you surprised by anything you found in your research?
Thanks to a wonderful colleague at the Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey, we were sent a copy of a letter that Diebenkorn wrote to a graduate student in 1981 where he described all of his most important interactions with Matisse’s work starting in the 1940s. It confirmed that Diebenkorn had come to see the Cone Collection in Baltimore.

How would you describe Diebenkorn’s art?
Diebenkorn was unusual in that he effortlessly moved from abstraction to representation and back to abstraction over the course of a long and successful career. His paintings are beautiful and compelling because of his experimentation with color and structure in both his abstract and representational works.

Can you give some examples of Matisse’s influence on Diebenkorn?
Both artists loved color and composed paintings that explore the space where an interior and exterior meet within a window or doorway. Diebenkorn was also fascinated with the idea of flattening space and told his students to paint flat like Matisse.

What aspect of this exhibition are you most excited about?
The BMA’s exhibition will allow visitors to see Diebenkorn’s journey as he discovered Matisse, while juxtaposing his work with some of Matisse’s greatest paintings. Seeing how they look together side-by-side is going to be a thrill.

See more examples of both artist’s work side-by-side in this short video.



A Short History of Epic Pillow Forts

Since the dawn of time, humans have been rearranging their stuff. Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Great Pyramids, can all be seen as the results of people deciding to move their things around. As soon as couch cushions, chairs, and blankets were available, someone was probably combining these pieces in ways that they were never intended to be combined. People (of all ages) use furniture and fabric to make forts within their homes for a lot of reasons, but most of these boil down to a need find some temporary refuge from everyday life. If the home is a shelter, then the pillow fort is a shelter within the shelter, an interior within the interior. The pillow fort is defensible space, but it is not made of hard warlike materials. Instead it is soft, the comfortable, inviting ordinary stuff of the home is rearranged into new configurations to make new kinds of space. The pillow fort has a whimsical legibility, it reads as both the castle and the couch at the same time, and it invites us to engage with it, to use it, and to remake it. This making and remaking is extra fun with company. Just like in full size home-building (or Stonehenge building), the creation of the pillow fort needs extra hands present, if only to balance the couch cushions while the blanket is draped over the top.

A sketch of the BMA's pillow fort activity

A sketch of the BMA’s pillow fort activity

The pillow fort uses many of the same construction methods present in domestic architectural history. First a site must be chosen and prepared. Low heavy space can be made by stacking things, and higher, lighter space is defined by adaptable frames. Modular textiles can wrap around all of this and create enclosure, with openings back to the outside world. No pillow fort, or house, is complete without something like a hearth. People need light, entertainment, and the social space that’s created around an active center like a fireplace, ipad, or flashlight…

For The Baltimore Museum of Art’s first Art After Hours event, come join us in the collaborative construction of a giant pillow fort in the Museum’s East Lobby. The event will include live music, local food and beer, and other activities in conjunction with the Imagining Home exhibition. Baltimore is our home, and the BMA invites you to come and make yourself at home here for the evening. We’ll make a temporary home within the lobby, come participate in person, and follow along with the hashtag #BMApillowfort on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The pillow fort will be up over the weekend, but we hope you’ll be comfortable and cozy enough to come back anytime!

– Fred Scharmen and Marian April Glebes

Setting the Record Straight on Free Admission and Attendance at the BMA

There have been several recent blog posts (Know Your Own Bone*, Hyperallergic) that question the impact of free admission on museum attendance and provide a compariBMA_Freeson of the BMA’s attendance between 1997 and 2014 as an example of why free admission is not effective in driving audiences. The BMA is very interested in these questions and the data that has been gathered on this issue. Unfortunately, the attendance figures being used to represent the BMA have been taken out of context and don’t provide an accurate representation of our experience since we became free in 2006. (*NOTE: After this blog was published, Know Your Own Bone revised its original statement to add more context.)

In the mid-1990s when annual attendance was over 300,000, the BMA was hosting major exhibitions on Alexander Calder, Dale Chihuly, Andrew Wyeth, as well as treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum that proved to be very popular with audiences. In 2000, the BMA began focusing more on building recognition of the Museum’s great collection and showcasing new scholarship from our talented curators. This resulted in several nationally travelling exhibitions which, while not blockbusters, attracted thousands of visitors to Baltimore, as well as to museums across the country from New Jersey to Florida and California to Arizona.

When the BMA and Walters Art Museum launched free admission in 2006, the goal of eliminating admission fees was to make the world-renowned collections of both museums more accessible to audiences with limited financial means—from families and seniors to students and teachers. The BMA earned approximately 2% of its operating budget from admission revenue and recognized from the free programs we offered at the time that we could better serve Baltimore’s diverse populations without it. The BMA experienced an extraordinary increase in participation in family programs as a result of free admission that has continued to this day. New research on the Museum’s visitors shows that the mean age has decreased from age 56 to 44 and there are many more African/African-American and Asian/Asian-American visitors than before 2006, though we can’t attribute those results entirely to free admission.

The multi-year renovation that began in 2011 has had a far greater impact on the BMA’s attendance than anything else. We dramatically transformed galleries for the Museum’s contemporary, American, African, and Asian art collections to much acclaim, reopened the historic front entrance, and greatly improved visitor amenities. We kept the Museum open to serve our visitors during this time, but attendance necessarily decreased below 200,000 visitors in 2014, when 60% of the building was closed for the renovation and we couldn’t offer as many exhibitions, programs, or school tours.

We anticipate post-renovation attendance will continue to increase as it has since the spring reopening  of the African and Asian art galleries. We are also looking forward to the completion of the renovation in October 2015 and the many exciting and thought-provoking exhibitions we will be presenting this fall and next year.

Great News for Landmark Matisse/Diebenkorn Exhibition

Today’s grant announcement from the National Endowment of the Arts brings BMA Senior Curator Katy Rothkopf another step closer to realizing her dream of pairing the work of French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and American artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).

Katy first conceived the idea for the exhibition many years ago as part of the BMA’s ongoing commitment to studying Matisse’s work. She saw two drawings of a reclining woman in the BMA’s collection by both artists and noticed an unmistakable similarity between the Frenchman’s and American’s work. Yet these images were created four decades and two continents apart. Since then, Katy has examined many artworks that show resonances between the two painters. She also made several trips to California to meet with the Diebenkorn family, including the artist’s widow before she passed this year, and even got to see the Diebenkorn’s extensive personal collection of books about Matisse.


Henri Matisse. Reclining Model with a Flowered Robe, c. 1923. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, BMA 1950.12.52


Richard Diebenkorn. Woman Seated in a Chair, 1963. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Thomas E. Benesch Memorial Collection, BMA 1970.21.3

Diebenkorn was introduced to Matisse’s work in the early 1940s, then immersed himself in the French master’s work in 1952 when a major retrospective of the artist’s paintings came to Los Angeles. He was completely taken by the color and structure of the oil paintings and inspired by Matisse’s willingness to show evidence of his creative process, and began to seek out examples of his work whenever he could. The effect on his work was transformational. A subsequent Matisse exhibition in 1966 captivated Diebenkorn even further.

Matisse’s emphasis on geometric structure, spatial relationships, and a bold, colorful painting style was of great importance to Diebenkorn. Both artists loved to show both the inside and outside in their compositions, often focusing on windows or doorways that include views beyond. In Window, Diebenkorn pays homage to Matisse at his most radical, combining a subject that was a favorite of both artists with pared down detail and broad, geometric fields of color. The decorative wrought iron grille and solitary chair in Window further link the composition to Matisse, who made many paintings of his home and studio that included these elements, such as in Goldfish and Palette of 1914.


Goldfish and Palette, 1914. The Museum of Modern Art, New York: Gift and bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn and Samual A. Marx, 507.1964


Window, 1967. Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Diebenkorn and anonymous donors, 1969.125 CR1414











Fast-forward a decade later, the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition is now being co-organized by the BMA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for presentations on each coast in 2016-2017. This landmark exhibition will bring together more than 80 paintings and drawings by Matisse and Diebenkorn from museums and private collections around the world. Seeing these two great artist’s works paired side-by-side for the first time is an event everyone wants to be a part of.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a color catalogue with images of all of the works featured, as well as additional illustrations for the introduction by the distinguished Matisse scholar John Elderfield and essays by Katy Rothkopf and SFMOMA Curator Janet Bishop.

In addition to works from the BMA’s and SFMOMA’s collections, stellar examples of each artist’s work are being loaned by the Musée National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen; The Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Albright-Knox Art Gallery in New York.

Generous support for the exhibition has come from The Henry Luce Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art in addition to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Drawing with Her Eyes

I had the most wonderful conversation with a member of my church yesterday who reminded me why my work at the BMA matters. She recalled a conversation with me several years ago when she told me that she wanted to take her granddaughter to the BMA, but had to work on Thursdays when the museum was free. I said something to her about not doing my job very well because she didn’t know that the BMA had eliminated general admission fees since 2006. She was very excited to learn this and told me she would begin taking her 2-year-old granddaughter Athena to the museum.

AthenaAthena was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and is non verbal, but these physical challenges haven’t diminished her spirit. This extraordinary young girl has found ways to enjoy ice skating and horseback riding… coincidentally both activities that make me very nervous. Four years after her first visit to the BMA, Athena began making art using new technology that enables her to design using eye and finger movements. Her family was astonished to discover her works were not simple finger paintings or fanciful doodles, but beautifully rendered drawings that show movement and intention. Now seven-years-old, Athena’s artwork was featured in a recent exhibition at the Maryland Institute College of Art curated by graduate student Danielle Chi. You can see a video clip of Athena (the first child in the video) and Danielle’s graduate project on Her proud family has also published a book of Athena’s drawings on

Athena Storm. Chasing Ice. 2013

Athena Storm. Chasing Ice. 2013

You never know what will spark a child’s imagination. I think this little girl already had the innate talent and vision to create art, but perhaps didn’t realize it until she began visiting the BMA and then learned about the new technology. It gives me great joy to see how Athena’s creative expression has blossomed. I hope it will inspire others who wonder why they should visit a museum or who have any doubts about their abilities. It is extraordinary what you can accomplish with passion and vision.