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  • American Visionary Art MuseumAmerican Visionary Art Museum Baltimore, Maryland
    The American Visionary Art Museum is found in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore, Maryland, under an agreement by the city that the marvelous piece of land in the Inner Harbor area should be cleaned of the left over pollution by a former whiskey warehouse and copper paint factory and then given to the museum. It was made the nation's national museum for self-taught artists by Congress. The founder and present director is Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, who used to be a psychiatric nurse, but left her profession to "trumpet the wonders of raw human creativity". In just six short years, she was able to raise $7 million from people like Anita Roddick, with the museum opening in 1995, and designed by Alex Castro and Rebecca Swanston. There is 55,000 square feet of space with a permanent gallery of just 4000 items, from visionary artists like Ben Wilson, Ho Baron, Vollis Simpson and Clyde Jones; plus another 40 pieces from the Cabaret Mechanical Theater of London. Part of the work is exhibited in a gallery located on the first floor of the main structure, all through the James Rouse Visionary Center and some outdoors, when temporary new themed displays are brought in. There aren't any curators, instead using guest ones for their shows, and instead of showcasing one or two particular artists or styles, the museum prefers to sponsor themed exhibitions with titles like the Wind in Your Hair or High on Life. Ms. Hoffberger is quite proud of the fact that the museum is not like your usual museum.  Another way in that the museum is different from the "norm" are the educational goals which are; confirm the enormous hunger for exploring what each of us can do the best, in our way, regardless of age, to expand the definition of what a "worthwhile life" is, create respect and enjoyment in the gifts of others and to promote the usage of self-exploration, intuition, innate intelligence and creative self-reliance. Rebecca's refusal to do what other museums have done created some bad feelings among the academic field experts, like Chicago art dealer, Carl Hammer, who said that for a person of these creditionials to open a museum of this historical importance, while she is completely unknown, and not paying any attention to the traditions and norms of other museums has given people some bad vibes. Regardless of her past experience or expertise, the museum has thrived and gotten the support of collectors and the community through the exhibitions that look at the relationship of art to the human condition rather than to the canon of art history. The museum sponsors numerous special events like the yearly East Coast Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race and many art car shows. One of the wonderful exhibitions that is presently being shown is the Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness show that is going on now and will be there until September, 2010. This exciting display showcases the ongoing quest for human rights and continuing search for personal fulfillment that was written in the 1776 American Declaration of Independence that has become the starting place for this extraordinary exhibition. It includes works by the last surviving descendants of the Iroquois Indians, Guantanamo Bay detainees, African-American civil rights activists, Tsars of Russia, Algerian war veterans, French Revolutionaries, holocaust survivors, incarcerated prisoners and Iraqi doctors that are part of the 86 visionary artists that are being showcased. Another is Out of this World: A Centennial Celebration of Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, which runs until March 2011, and is the 100th anniversary of the birth of this visionary artist, and contains 38 very special paintings that are showcased in this collection and sits on the third floor with spectacular and visionary artwork. 

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  • Fell's PointFells Point Baltimore, Maryland
    Fell's Point is located in Baltimore, Maryland, where it has become home to a large number of coffee bars, shops, restaurants, music store and more than 120 pubs. It was at one time, the location of the city's maritime history, but now can boast of the biggest concentration of bars/pubs in the city, and is one of the most famous city waterfront communities that continues to be visited by many tourists. It is accessed by the freeway, water taxis and numerous bus lines, also home to Irish, Mexican-American and Polish people that have lived here for centuries. During the last few decades, the area has been invaded by middle to upper middle income families that has raised the values of properties, and is one of the many places in and around the city that have been put on the National Register of Historical Districts, plus it was the first in the state. It was also added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1969. The city was founded in 1730 by William Fell, who had arrived here and became enamored by the excellent deep waters and the closeness to large agriculture centers and lush forests. Fell's Point soon became a shipbuilding and commercial hub, that would be surveyed by William's son, who then laid out the streets and began selling plots of land to be used for homes, in 1763. The village grew fast and became incorporated with Baltimore Town and Jones Town in 1797 that would become known as Baltimore. It continued to grow, as well as get richer due to tobacco, coffee and flour, during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the first ships that were built for the United States Navy were constructed in Fell's Point shipyards, and that included the USS Constitution in 1797; although it would be more known for its topsail schooners, often miscalled the Baltimore clippers, which had become famous for their handling and speed. The ships would become great blockade runners, and often used for privateers. The Pride of Baltimore II is copied after the Chasseur, constructed by Thomas Kemp, which would go on and become on of the most successful privateers built in the point. In the War of 1812, Fell's Point would build and support dozens of privateers that preyed on British ships, which made the city a main target of the British in the war and soon led to the bombing of the city's Fort Henry. Another main industry in the area was immigration as it soon grew into one of the main entry points for the newcomers. Jobs were plentiful in shipbuilding as well as the warehouses and factories, so many of these newcomers came here and stayed, thus adding to the multi-cultural base of the region, although the richer people would soon move into the better areas of the city. The point would be a major shipbuilding center until the Civil War, and because of the bigger size of the newer ships, and cause a slow down since they couldn't handle the harbor area. So, this caused the shipbuilding industry to move to other harbored cities, with bigger facilities and the point began to evolve into a manufacturing hub, with new improvements in packing and canning. In 1904, a huge fire burned much of the city, but this neighborhood was fortunate and didn't sustain much damage, but did destroy most of the downtown area. It wasn't long before the manufacturing business would leave the area, which caused some urban decay, until the preservationists stepped in to save the rich heritage of this area. Its cobblestone streets added to the special historical character of the neighborhood, that soon enough enticed businesses to come here and not long after, tourists.

January 11, 2010