Category Archives: Baltimore

Weekender: Baltimore’s Fun House

Pretzel Bites - Mr. Rain's Fun House - AVAM

Pretzel Bites – Mr. Rain’s Fun House

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit and write about my new favorite art museum: the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.  I made mention of Mr. Rain’s Fun House, the museum’s café located on the third floor.

When I was a growing up outside of Washington, D.C., my parents took every opportunity they could to expose my brother and me to all of the free museums and exhibits the Smithsonian had to offer.  I’m a richer person today because of it.

What I remembered aside from the exhibits was the cafeteria where we’d sometimes stop for lunch. Back then, it seemed like the Smithsonian outsourced all of their food services to a cardboard factory.  Dry burgers served in styrofoam for eight dollars were not a meal.  We learned to brown bag it.

Museum food has changed and now caters to distinguished palates.

On Friday after a train ride, walk, and photo shoot, I was famished.  I knew I couldn’t appreciate any of the mesmerizing visuals at the AVAM without something in my stomach.

Roasted Apple Salad - Mr. Rain's Fun House  - Baltimore

Roasted Apple Salad – Mr. Rain’s Fun House – Baltimore

Enter Mr. Rain’s Fun House.

The “fun house” offers fresh ingredients and imaginative lunch, dinner, and brunch choices served on proper plates with proper cutlery. They also serve booze, so you can complement your meal if you get into that.

I opted for the Roasted Apple Salad that’s oddly not on the online menu.  It should be because it was sweet, light, and well-dressed.

I asked for a wine recommendation and the server suggested the Ciderworks Kingston Black Cider.  At first, I thought it was a hard cider, but it was served in a wine glass and tasted like a succulent, apple-flavored white wine.

Ciderworks Kingston Black Cider - Mr. Rain's Fun House

Ciderworks Kingston Black Cider – Mr. Rain’s Fun House

Whatever your mood, skip the tourist traps at the Inner Harbor and treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Mr. Rain’s Fun House. Don’t forget to order some pretzel bites and brown mustard.

Who said museum food had to be boring?

Weekender: Baltimore’s Visionary Art Is a Charmer

@travelreider

From Nancy Josephson’s “Gallery-A-Go-Go Bus”

I haven’t visited the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) since the late 90s, shortly after it opened. The only thing I remember was the towering statue of local celebrity Divine that greeted visitors on the first floor.  It now resides outside. The museum’s three floors and basement are packed with stimulating visuals and thought-provoking works from its current exhibitions and permanent collection.

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, who was doing development work at the Department of Psychiatry at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, opened AVAM in 1995.  Taken from its mission statement, visionary art “refers to art that is produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training”.  This type of art has been connected to the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Throughout my self-guided tour, I noted on more than one occasion pieces of art that were created by individuals who had been institutionalized in mental facilities.  “Horse Dress”, for example, is an intricately crocheted garment created by schizophrenic patient at the Sheppard Pratt Hospital.  The artist is listed as anonymous.

“Recovery” is a sculpture created by another mental patient.  The artist is also anonymous.  The sculpture is slender and was carved from the trunk of an apple tree.  What struck me was the concave chest representing the artist’s battle with tuberculosis.

Is there a connection between Hoffberger’s vision and her work at Sinai Hospital?  I’d like to know. What I do know is that pieces such as these further support the museum’s mission of showcasing art by self-taught individuals who are not bound by the “rules”.

The Federal Hill neighborhood sits adjacent to the AVAM.

The Federal Hill neighborhood sits adjacent to the AVAM.

The American Visionary Art Museum is located on Key Boulevard near Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor.   The museum is not free, but well worth the affordable cost of admission. Be sure to include stops at the Sideshow Shop and Mr. Rain’s Fun House, a café located on the third floor.

Also be sure to check out AVAM’s current exhibitions including Frank Bruno’s apocalyptic A Life Devoted to THE END.

Note:  Photography is not allowed inside of the museum.  However, if you want to check out photos from my trip as well as several taken outside of the museum, visit the photo gallery.

Upcoming: Weekender Edition in Baltimore

American Visionary Art Museum - Baltimore

American Visionary Art Museum – Baltimore

I made it a point this past weekend to walk around and photograph as much as I could during my 24-hour stay in Baltimore.

Charm City offered this Washingtonian refreshing alternatives that were forty minutes by train and worlds apart in experiences.

More soon.