Baltimore’s Unofficial Museum of Social Justice: American Visionary Art Museum

By: David J. Smith, February 26, 2017

Hope and Grieving by Matt Sesow (AVAM)

I was first introduced to the American Visionary Art Museum  (AVAM)  in the late 1990s.  I remember in particular AVAM’s exhibit on war and peace that was shown during 2001-2002.  As a museum that features “outsider” art, many of its exhibitions have centered on the themes of justice, peace, and diversity.  Over the years, it has received a deserved reputation as a place that celebrates the art of hardship and injustice, as well as that of social justice and hope.

Vacation Photo by Matt Sesow (AVAM)

This past weekend, I had a chance to visit the museum after a number of years with my wife and some close friends.   If you are looking for inspiration or solace in these times of political and social challenge, AVAM is a good destination.  For those based in DC, it is just a short 45 minute drive to Baltimore, located in the Federal Hill area.


The current exhibition of Washington, DC based pacifist Matt Sesow  – “Shock + Awe” – is a tribute to humanitarians, peacebuilders,  and soldiers.  His art has been called  “raw, visceral, good to the bone.”  His work will be shown until June 2017.  Sesow has also created a website about the exhibition at AVAM. Check it out here!


Other current exhibitions include “Yummm! The History, Future, and Fantasy of Food”, which looks at social justice and environmental issues related to food, and the Jim Rouse Visionary Center, which considers social activism.



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