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The Baltimore Museum of Art’s security guards will curate an upcoming exhibit early next year

They keep a careful eye on the art, but what do they think about it?

A new exhibit from the Baltimore Museum of Art, scheduled to begin early next year, will be curated entirely by security officers who work in the museum.

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Entitled “Guarding the Art,” the exhibition will be made up of already existing pieces in the BMA’s collection. Officers will collaborate with museum leadership, including art historian and curator Lowery Stokes Sims, as guest curators. They will choose pieces that have impacted them and analyze the work through a new “human-centered lens,” the BMA said in a news release this week.

“Guarding the Art” will be made up of already existing pieces in the BMA’s collection.
“Guarding the Art” will be made up of already existing pieces in the BMA’s collection. (Kevin Richardson)

“Our security officers spend more time in our galleries and living among our collection than any other staff within the institution,” said Christopher Bedford, the BMA’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis director, in a statement. “It is their perspectives, their insights, and their relationships with the art and daily interactions with our visitors that will set the stage for ‘Guarding the Art’ to be an exceptional experience.”

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Added Sims: “The security staff’s relationship to the art they safeguard and their interactions with visitors are essential elements of this project.”

The initial idea for this exhibit came from Asma Naeem, the BMA’s chief curator, who was looking to make the museum more inclusive and representative of the Baltimore community.

After conversations with BMA Trustee Amy Elias and other BMA curators, the idea was presented to the security team. Seventeen officers decided to participate — Traci Archable-Frederick, Jess Bither, Ben Bjork, Ricardo Castro, Melissa Clasing, Bret Click, Alex Dicken, Kellen Johnson, Michael Jones, Rob Kempton, Chris Koo, Alex Lei, Dominic Mallari, Dereck Mangus, Sara Ruark, Joan Smith, and Elise Tensley.

Although the exhibit is still in its infancy, the BMA noted that there seems to be themes of social justice, resilience, the environment and underrepresented artists in the collection. Many officers also are intrigued by how they see visitors interact with art works. For instance, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle’s “Head of Medusa” will be chosen because museum goers often spend extended periods of time looking at it.

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“It’s been exciting to get firsthand 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,” officer Elise Tensley said in a statement. “I cannot wait to see all the objects we’ve selected on display.”

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