BALTIMORE - The American Visionary Art Museum unveils two exciting upgrades: the reopening of visionary artist Ben Wilson’s Meditation Chapel, a masterpiece of AVAM's permanent collection; and the installation of UV lights throughout the museum's HVAC system, in another major addition towards the safety and comfort of COVID-era visitors and staff. The lights are rated highly effective against virus and bacteria, as they continually purify the air. The hygienic measure is made possible through the generosity of the Middendorf Foundation.
Masterpiece Reopens after Major Restoration
The Meditation Chapel—a towering and intricate 2-story structure—was originally constructed by UK-based artist Ben Wilson in 1996 and dedicated to AVAM’s inaugural exhibition, “The Tree of Life,” shortly after the museum's grand opening. The chapel's winding staircase enables visitors to climb its tower and enjoy a meditative retreat in the city. A "Back Out Bench" affords fiancees a place to contemplate the fullness of their pending nuptials. Wilson explains, “My Mother was very unhappily married.” À quarter of a century of outdoor exposure to the elements forced the museum to close the chapel in 2019 and allowed expert carpenter Bob Little to lovingly restore it to its original glory in a meticulous year-long process using detailed archival photography and extensive sourcing of reclaimed, local wood. Support was provided in part by the TKF Foundation.
New Chapel Represents Baltimore
While Little was able to salvage some of the original tower, the sunburst window and domed roof had to be completely rebuilt. The original Meditation Chapel used downed trees, telephone poles, driftwood, and old railroad ties as material. Wilson refused to ever cut a living tree. To keep in the spirit of the original structure, Little sourced from Baltimore City’s Camp Small wood reclamation facility. The rest was a mix of found wood from the region, including driftwood from the Chesapeake Bay.
The Meditation Chapel is also an altar, serving as a celebratory backdrop for countless weddings performed at AVAM over the years. Now, couples and visitors, down to the youngest ones, may enjoy its magic once again.
The museum and chapel are open to visitors Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. For timed tickets, visit avam.org
UV Purifying Lights
“During this time, we know safety and health continue to be of paramount concern to our public and staff. With the addition of UV lights in the HVAC of all our conditioned buildings, on top of our other high standards of health and safety procedures, AVAM exceeds even government best practices guidelines. Heck, hospitals would even be envious!” exclaims Rebecca Hoffberger, AVAM’s proud founder and director.
"We extend our deepest appreciation for the wonderful generosity and caring of the Middendorf Foundation that enabled the purchase of this extra measure of state-of-the-art technology to benefit our visitors and staff. Now our climatized buildings aren’t just the ‘top, most beloved’—citing AVAM’s recent 2021 win as the people's choice top architectural treasure, out of a field of 64 of Baltimore's greatest historic and modern architectural treasures, awarded through the Baltimore Architectural Foundation—it's now among the healthiest, too!"
About the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is a Congressionally-designated national museum and education center dedicated to intuitive, self-taught artistry. AVAM champions the role intuition plays in creative invention and evolutionary innovation of all sort—be it in the field of art, science, health/wellbeing, engineering, humor or philosophy, and especially in inspiring compassionate and creative acts of social justice and betterment.