The American Visionary Art Museum. Photo by Jack Hoffberger.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is traditionally one of the busiest days at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore, and this year is no exception.

To celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the museum holds an annual event called “MLK Dare to Dream Day,” featuring activities for visitors of all ages. It’s always held on the federal holiday that’s named after the slain civil rights leader, which falls this year on Monday, Jan. 16.

At AVAM, MLK Dare to Dream Day is the one day each year that the Inner Harbor museum is open on a Monday. This year’s MLK event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will also be the first since 2020 in which the museum will be open at full capacity, following COVID 19-related restrictions in 2021 and 2022.

Admission to the museum, usually $15.95 for adults, will be free all day. Scheduled activities, also free, include live music and dance performances, an open mic and poetry slam, and art workshops.

“When we honor Dr. Martin Luther King on this national holiday, we are standing in the space of unity and equality, qualities that have gotten lost or have become obscured in the mire of many besetments,” said Executive Director Jenenne Whitfield, in a statement.

“Nevertheless, we are encouraged and remain hopeful through our remembrance of Dr. King and his timeless example and as we reassert the precious attributes of love, kindness and equality that shape us as human beings. It’s important that we remember these on MLK Day, but even more important that we put these attributes into action every day!”

Open since 1995 at 800 Key Highway, 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 — whether in art, science, engineering, humor or philosophy, and especially in compassionate acts of social justice and betterment.

The MLK Dare to Dream Day lineup includes several family-friendly activities inside the museum’s Jim Rouse Visionary Center, part of the Key Highway campus. The Open Mic and Poetry Slam, which starts at 1 p.m., provides an opportunity for artists to show off their talents to other museum visitors and possibly earn a cash prize. Whitfield, who became the museum’s executive director in September, will be one of the performers. Others interested in performing are encouraged to preregister with the museum at in order to secure a slot; participants can also register on the day of the event.

At 2 p.m. in the Rouse building, author Tellie Simpson will hold a “storytime session” featuring her children’s book, “A Girl in a Museum World.” Simpson’s book highlights the important and often overdue conversations surrounding the representation of Black people and their history in the context of museums. There will be performances by Abu the Flutemaker at 11 a.m. and the Keur Khaleyi African Dancers at 3 p.m.

Throughout the day, museum docents will offer pop-up tours. In the spirit of MLK Day, the museum is encouraging visitors to drop off donations such as winter hats and gloves and unused toiletries for Paul’s Place, a community outreach center in southwest Baltimore.

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.

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