July 19, 2021, 10:00:00 PM

Greg Tucker
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Chris Myers

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BALTIMORE —The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) announces the anticipated retirement of its visionary Founder, Director, and Primary Curator, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger in early 2022. For nearly three decades, Hoffberger, who founded the museum with her late partner/former husband, art collector and philanthropist, LeRoy E. Hoffberger, has guided AVAM since spearheading the founding concept in 1984 and its much-celebrated grand opening in 1995. Through her leadership, AVAM has secured a national and international reputation for award-winning, original, thematic exhibitions that combine art, science, philosophy and humor with a focus on social justice and betterment.

Hoffberger's final curated exhibition will be "Healing & The Art of Compassion (And the Lack Thereof!)" on view October 9, 2021 - September 4, 2022. This 26th mega-exhibition will center on the twin forces for creating greater good in society: healing and compassion.

The Board of Directors has appointed m/Oppenheim Executive Search to conduct the international search for Hoffberger’s successor.

"I consider myself the luckiest woman I know,” said Rebecca Hoffberger, who turns 70 in 2022. "It has been such a fantastic privilege to imagine, birth, and to help our American Visionary Art Museum flourish over these past decades, alongside the most wonderful hardworking staff imaginable. Every beautiful thought, opportunity to communally-inspire some greater good we have joyfully undertaken.”

AVAM Board Chair Christopher Goelet stated: “Baltimore, the State of Maryland, and, in fact, the entire art world will forever be indebted to Rebecca for her vision in creating this groundbreaking living testament to human creativity, imagination and ingenuity. She and LeRoy imagined the possibility of a place where intuitive artists could evidence the rich and varied experiences of their everyday lives. They not only made this possible, but Rebecca has since given generations of artists and creators a prominent stage to share their own visions and stories in ways that change perspectives, as well as hearts and minds.”

Guided by its mission to promote “visionary art … produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself,” AVAM has been Congressionally-designated as “America’s official national museum, education center, and repository for self-taught and intuitive artistry.”

Since its beginning, AVAM has remained true to its founding cornerstone statement, as defined by Hoffberger, that, “Creative acts of social justice constitute life’s highest performance art.” Moreover, AVAM’s extensive educational programs provide artistic, experiential-based programs and curriculum for students, families, and members of the public, both on its campus and throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region. AVAM’s Founding Seven Education Goals and Mission Statement are included in the American Alliance of Museums’ book of Best Museum Practices, and have been modeled nationally by other major museums and organizations dedicated to enabling the potential of people, both young and young at heart.

Consistently, AVAM has been hailed by leading news, travel and trade publications as the most most desirable destination in Baltimore, throughout Maryland and far beyond. Both in 2018 and 2019, USA Today cited AVAM as “Best Museum in Maryland,” and the New York Times confirmed that the museum "deserves all of the praise that has been heaped upon it since it opened,” while CNN declared that AVAM is "one of the most fantastic museums anywhere in America." Just this month, AVAM won in two categories of the Best of the Baltimore Sun’s Readers’ Choice Awards: Best Museum and Best Tourist Attraction.

John Maizels, founder and editor of Raw Vision Magazine, the world’s premier magazine dedicated to self-taught art, offered: “​​When Rebecca Hoffberger first opened AVAM's doors to the public in 1995 it caused an international sensation. At the time it was only the second museum in the world and the first in the USA to offer its visitors a glimpse into the incredible world of visionary and outsider art. Its influence stretched far and wide and since then many museum departments in the US have been specially dedicated to this unique field. AVAM still stands head and shoulders above other institutions in both scale and ambition and its year-long thematic exhibitions are unrivaled in the world.”

European Union Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis, who has become an ardent advocate for AVAM, having led the first-ever EU Ambassadors’ outreach visit to Maryland, noted the impact of the Secret Life of Earth exhibition, stating: “The exhibit did not just highlight in the most effective way the scale of the problem, it also opened our eyes to the creativity and innovative spirit we possess as humans to overcome it. We left uplifted and empowered. The eye-opening experience at AVAM became a milestone in our collective EU diplomacy.” He further stated, “Rebecca's life's work at AVAM has helped to raise our consciousness to new levels, to aim higher, and shows why we need to look at problems from all angles to come up with beautiful, inclusive solutions.”

Included among the many accolades and awards bestowed on Hoffberger for her artistic contributions are: Top 100 Global Leader from Real Leaders Magazine; Maryland Women's Hall of Fame; Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame; Icon Award from the Daily Record; Visionary Award from On Our Own; Israel Bonds' Golda Meir Award; Sir Arthur C. Clarke Vision and Imagination Award; Urban League's Whitney M. Young, Jr. Honoree for Outstanding Community Involvement & Support for Equal Opportunity; Visionary Award from the American Folk Art Museum; Images and Voices of Hope Journalism Award; Roger D. Redden Award from the Baltimore Architecture Foundation; Loyola College's Andrew White Award; College of Notre Dame Sarah's Circle Award; as well as Honorary Doctorates from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Stevenson University, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, and McDaniel College.

On November 20, 2021, AVAM will host a “Farewell Fundraising Gala in Honor of Rebecca Alban Hoffberger” during which a 25th-anniversary virtual retrospective will be debuted, and a star-studded salute to the Founder will be featured. Also, on Sunday, April 3, 2022, there will be a Fan & Member Grassroots celebration with a 3pm lecture by Hoffberger.

Hoffberger plans to pursue her long-delayed dream to write an original science play about the very real and close friendship between Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain, continuing her signature talent for seamlessly combining art, science, and humor.

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About the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)

AVAM is a Congressionally-designated national museum and education center dedicated to intuitive, self-taught artistry. It champions the role intuition plays in creative invention and innovation of all sorts — be it art, science, engineering, humor or philosophy, and especially in compassionate acts of social justice and betterment.

For more information, visit: avam.org

KEY MILESTONES

1984 - Hoffberger first has the idea for AVAM, envisioning a place of celebration of creative invention of all sorts. At the museum's core would be Hoffberger's belief that "Creative acts of social justice constitute life's highest performance art."

1989 - The City of Baltimore offers AVAM exclusive developer's rights for the museum's current-day site at 800 Key Highway. Hoffberger embarks on a $7.6 million fundraising campaign with co-founder LeRoy Hoffberger.

1995 - AVAM opens its doors over Thanksgiving weekend. Artist Gerald Hawkes is the first to enter the front door, followed by farmer and giant whirligig maker, 76-year old Vollis Simpson.

1997 - The new institution captivates the creative world, winning the first of many awards to come: the prestigious National Award for Excellence from the Urban Land Institute, one of the most coveted in development for being "truly superior" in architecture / design, creative originality, and functionality. Hoffberger insisted the creation of the museum campus use only Maryland design and construction talent.

2020 - AVAM celebrates 25 years after mounting 41 original exhibitions, of which 26 were mega and thematic art exhibitions; hosting 70-100 weddings and corporate events per year, operating debt-free, and creatively collaborating with global visionaries such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu; PostSecret Founder Frank Warren; inventors Ray Kurzweil and Dean Kamen; Patch Adams, MD; Nobel Laureates Peter Agre and John Mathers; comedians Lewis Black and Rosie O'Donnell; civil rights leader Julian Bond and activists Dame Anita Roddick and Daryl Davis; and many others. The museum delights audiences with its annual, free events such as MLK Dare to Dream Day, the annual land/sea Kinetic Sculpture Race, July 4th Pet Parade, Flicks on the Hill, and Sock Monkey Saturday.

Present - AVAM wins Best Architecture People's Choice Award 2021 from the Baltimore Architecture Foundation; the museum sells out on weekends while also offering virtual programs that draw an international audience.

See full museum history at avam.org/history

European Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis:

"I first visited AVAM in December 2019 while leading the first ever EU Ambassadors' outreach trip to Maryland. When we arrived, we were met by Rebecca Hoffberger who led us on a private tour of the Secret Life of Earth exhibit. Showing the toll of plastics and climate change on our oceans, the exhibit did not just highlight in the most effective way the scale of the problem, but it also opened our eyes to the creativity and innovative spirit we possess as humans to overcome it. We left uplifted and empowered. The eye-opening experience at AVAM became a milestone in our collective EU diplomacy. During the pandemic, I turned again to Rebecca to discuss a collaboration on the themes of compassion and resilience embodied in many of the works I had seen at AVAM. Rebecca immediately responded by offering to curate and install an exhibition of AVAM works at the EU Residence in DC - works that show humanity in all its pain, diversity, and glory. These works are now on loan in my dining room and have complemented me while conducting hundreds of virtual speaking engagements during the pandemic. Now that we are coming back to normal with in-person diplomatic events at my residence, I see how guests are transfixed by their ingenuity and simplicity. These pieces of art are an important reminder that, even as we discuss high matters of transatlantic diplomacy, we are all human and the best we can do is to celebrate that diversity and respect the fragile and beautiful planet we live on. Rebecca's life's work at AVAM has helped to raise our consciousness to new levels, to aim higher, and shows why we need to look at problems from all angles to come up with beautiful, inclusive solutions.”