Baltimore Museum of Art Asks Security Guards to Curate Their Own Exhibition — and It Opens Next Month


A group of security guards at the Baltimore Museum of Art is getting the chance of a lifetime to curate their own exhibition.

Next month, visitors to the museum will be able to see Guarding the Art, which will feature a collection of pieces chosen by 17 of its security guards.

The idea to feature the unique exhibition began last year following a conversation BMA trustee Amy Elias had about engaging with the security guards that spend countless hours with the museum’s art.

Guarding the Art is more personal than typical museum shows as it gives visitors a unique opportunity to see, listen and learn the personal histories and motivations of guest curators,” BMA Trustee Amy Elias said in a statement.

“In this way, the exhibition opens a door for how a visitor might feel about the art, rather than just providing a framework for how to think about the art,” she added.

The exhibition features approximately 25 pieces from BMA’s collection and includes artists such as Jeremy Alden, Louise Bourgeois, Sam Gilliam, Grace Hartigan, Winslow Homer, Alma W. Thomas and Mickalene Thomas, and unidentified artists from Colombia, Costa Rica and the Solomon Islands.

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Baltimore Museum of Art

Baltimore Museum of Art

Christopher Myers/Baltimore Museum of Art; Hale Woodruff: Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art

Baltimore native Kellen Johnson (pictured above) chose Hale Woodruff’s Normandy Landscape from 1928, and Traci Archable-Frederick (pictured in first image) chose Resist #2 (2021) by Mickalene Thomas.

“There is so much more to see in the BMA’s collection than what’s on the gallery walls,” Elise Tensley, one of the security guard who participated in the exhibition, said in a statement issued by the museum.

“It’s been exciting to get first-hand experience in organizing an exhibition and discovering all the behind-the-scenes considerations. It gives you a new respect for how museums work and the stories they tell,” Tensley added. “I cannot wait to see all the objects we’ve selected on display.”

Tensley chose Winter’s End by Baltimore-based artist Jane Frank as her pick. The painting hasn’t been displayed since 1983.

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Along with Tensley, the other guest curators received mentorship and guidance from Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, an art historian and curator.

“It’s been really meaningful to work with Lowery Sims. Her prestigious career and hands-on experience and knowledge have been huge to this entire process,” said Rob Kempton, who chose Grace Hartigan’s painting Interior, (The Creeks).

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“I especially appreciate that she hasn’t limited us in terms of what we shouldn’t do, but has focused our ideas toward creating a really stellar show. She’s given us the confidence and ideas to make all the connections happen,” Kempton added.

Guarding the Art opens Sunday, March 27.

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