Royal Man’s Mask (Mukenga). 1970s. Kuba kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Friends of the Arts of Africa, the Pacific and the Americas, and Amy Gould and Matthew Polk, Gibson Island, Maryland, BMA 2013.363
BALTIMORE, MD– The unending protests, riots and destruction of property in Baltimore is beginning to have significant impact on the cultural life in a city that has grown to become a major tourists destination. Soon after Monday’s rampage across Baltimore that led to the looting of stores and burning of infrastructure, many cultural institutions, including museums and galleries began to close their doors. The fear is that protesters may invade galleries and museums, causing the loss of important treasures and destruction of valuable works of art.
The American Visionary Museum in the heart of Baltimore is one of the museums that closed its doors on Tuesday. At the height of the rioting in Baltimore, the museum administration announced that the museum will be closed until situation improved. The museum reopened on Wednesday until 6 p.m, it regular hours, to an unimpressive attendance. Many people were unable to visit museum due to protests that continue to envelope the city.
Presently at the American Visionary Museum are several exhibitions including Heaven’s Carousel by Tim Otto Roth, The Visionary Experience: Saint Francis to Finster and Mr. Eddy Lives!. Mr. Eddy Lives! is one the major attraction at the museums and has continued to captivated art lovers across Baltimore. Since it opened on April 11, the show has attracted large crowds, and the hope is that as situation improves in Baltimore, more art lovers will be able to attend shows at The American Visionary Museum.
In addition to closing the museum on Tuesday, the administrators at the American Visionary Museum also postponed its annual Kinetic Sculpture Race until further notice. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 2.
In its 17th year, this art event that has become a ritual in Baltimore will be held according to the Museum on a “yet to be determined future date.”
The Kinetic Sculpture Race allows art lovers across Baltimore and America show their creativity by creating flying art objects. The Kinetic Sculpture Race is a crowd puller and a major attraction for tourists who help grow Baltimore’s economy by spending their money.
The Baltimore Museum of Art remained closed Wednesday as protesters spread across the city. One of the major show at the museum is African Art, a show that brings together African art collection. The show according to the Baltimore Museum of Art “emphasizes the relationships between 85 incredible works, many large-scale, and the lives of the people by and for whom the objects were made. Artists and diverse traditions from more than 40 African empires, kingdoms, and regions are represented.”
Since the exhibition opened on April 26, it has been a major attraction at the museum. The hope is that when the Baltimore settles, more art lovers can visit the museum and engage the works on display.
These are just some of the art institution and cultural centers that have been impacted by the demonstrations, riots and protest spreading across Baltimore. Several others have also closed or rescheduled events. The B&O Railroad Museum will be closed through May 3, while The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has rescheduled Friday’s performance of Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions to July 1. The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has also cancelled its Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances of Romeo & Juliet.
The riot and destruction of property began Monday soon after the funeral for Freddie Gray, the young Baltimorean who suffered fatal injury while in police custody. In spite of pleadings from Freddie Gray’s parents for calm in the city, many young people turned a deaf ear. They went on rampage looting stores and setting them ablaze. In the Westside of Baltimore, looters ransacked the CVS store before setting it on fire. Several other stores were also looted by the protesters. To restore order to city, the Governor instituted a state of emergency called in the National Guard. A curfew was also imposed on the city. That however, has not stopped the protesters who continue to show anger over the death of Freddie Gray .
In addition to museums and galleries, several organizations that have helped Baltimore’s economy grow through their annual events are also cancelling or rescheduling events. The Door and Hardware Institute, for instance, has cancelled its CoNEXTions convention. The convention which was scheduled for Baltimore Convention Center from April 23 – May 1 was canceled because of the unrest in Baltimore. The group had booked 2,500 hotel night in the city for the more than 2,000 guests expected to attend the event.
The Door and Hardware Institute is not alone in cancelling events that have helped economic situation in Baltimore. The American Heart Association has also cancelled its meeting scheduled from April 29 through May 11 at the Hilton Hotels. The cancellation will not only ensure a loss of revenue for the struggling hotel, but also small businesses who benefit from the patronage from event guests and tourists.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore, another major tourists destination for visitors to Baltimore also closed its doors Tuesday. All events were also cancelled. Although the Aquarium reopened Wednesday, attendance was below expectation because of the protests. While safety is important, the closure of the aquarium no doubt cuts into necessary money the organization needs to grow and provide important projects for its guests.
The Baltimore unrest has also caused the Orioles to cancel and postpone games. On Wednesday, Orioles played in an empty stadium to prevent the people President Obama describe as ‘thugs’ from disrupting the game.
The financial loss from this arrangement will no doubt be enormous in the end. Besides the fans who buy tickets, the vendors and small business around the stadium will feel the impact of the absence of the spectators.
Many Baltimore officials understand the impact of the riot and destruction on cultural life and Baltimore economy that benefits from improved tourism. Consequently, everything is been done to bring stability to the city. Whether their effort will work or not remain to be seen as protesters are unrelenting in the effort to make themselves heard. Even with the curfew, disgruntled elements determined to foment trouble continue to push ahead, causing unrest in the city.