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Museum Talk: To Be or Not To Be “Artsy”

Unless we go for an art history class, the average college student will not spend much time in museums.

While most of us remember museum field trips throughout our elementary and general education, museums have a lot to offer people at the college level. In fact, Baltimore has some of the best museums in the country, featuring amazing works of art. Recently, I’ve been able to go to both the Walters Art Museum in Mt. Vernon and the Baltimore Museum of Art near campus. As a recent history of art minor, I know surprisingly little about museums and visiting these was my attempt to learn more about the ones near me in Baltimore.

The Walters Art Museum is just a quick JHMI ride away. Get off at Peabody and the museum is right around the corner. With free admission to so many great galleries, every Hopkins students should make it here— at least once, if not more – during their time in Baltimore. Make a day out of it and grab lunch anywhere in Mt. Vernon nearby. The Walters has a large collection of works ranging from ancient to the twentieth century, but a lot more ancient/medieval works in general. During my time there, I was particularly interested in exploring the ancient and medieval art galleries, which I didn’t know much about. The Egyptian collection was particularly fascinating with old tomb reliefs and even mummies. Furthermore, ancient Greek and Roman art is in abundance, setting the bar high for later works of art history with their highly valued classical techniques and characteristics.

I also recently visited Baltimore Museum of Art, right off campus on Art Museum drive, again with free admission. What I found most striking about my first visit here were the world-famous collections of contemporary and modern art. Contemporary art (meaning that of the latter half of the 20th century and onward) is not always “relatable” to the typical college student in its abstraction, and its reception heavily depends on the individual museum-goer’s interests. Yet, I found many works to be really captivating, especially a room focusing on a range of pieces by Andy Warhol. I also loved seeing the wide variety in media of contemporary works, such as built sculptures, photography and video. Such qualities are definitely worth seeing, especially to widen your own conceptual understanding of what exactly makes a piece to be considered art. In addition, the BMA Cone Collection (personal favorite collection) has an amazing collection of modern painting, including the largest collection of Matisse paintings in one place.

But why is it really important to appreciate our local museums?

A) The free admission. It’s outstanding that so many college students – who are always trying to find something free to do — don’t think about going to museums. From a more pedantic viewpoint, visiting museums is a productive use of your time, making you “more rounded” and contributing to your general education.

B) Art is just pleasing to look at, if you give it the chance. Instead of gluing your eyes to Netflix, try and appreciate some of history’s most visually remarkable works at a museum.

C) More importantly there is value to appreciating art besides any educational benefit you may reap. Even if you are not an aspiring artist – meaning you lack any ounce of artistic ability like myself – a lot can be learned from viewing art. How I view art is simply as a legacy of the past, I’ve come to appreciate the study of art because of this idea of legacy. All cultures in time have had some form of artistic expression, and it’s clear that this expression is fundamental to human nature. In understanding such artistic legacies, we can appreciate the contributions of those artists’ to our society as well as broaden our own understanding of human nature.

So next time you think of what to do with your weekend, consider being artsy, and visiting a museum close by.  

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