The American Visionary Art Museum. Photo by Jack Hoffberger.

The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore came in second place in USA TODAY’s contest for the “Best Art Museum” in the country, with the top honor going to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

A panel of experts nominated museums for the contest, which were narrowed down to 10 by the USA TODAY 10Best editors and voted upon by readers. Readers were able cast one vote per category each day.

“Located next to downtown Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is America’s official national museum and education center for self-taught and intuitive artistry. Created with materials from roots to toothpicks, farmers, homemakers, people without housing, and others have donated their art to this museum, transforming dreams and loss into works of art,” the 10Best editors wrote.

AVAM is known for its works by visionary artists, which the museum describes as pieces “produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training.”

The Baltimore museum is home to a number of iconic works, including “Cosmic Galaxy Egg” and “Black Icarus,” both by Andrew Logan; Vollis Simpson’s whirligig sculpture, titled “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”; and an array of other permanent and temporary displays.

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger and her former husband, the late LeRoy Hoffberger, co-founded AVAM in 1995. Hoffberger served as the museum’s director and primary curator for more than 26 years before retiring in April 2022 and passing the torch to the museum’s current director, Jenenne Whitfield.

In addition to its exhibits, the museum is also the host of several annual Baltimore events, including the Flicks from the Hill outdoor film series, the Kinetic Sculpture Race, and more.

Although AVAM was unable to clinch the overall win, the museum did come out ahead of eight other impressive institutions, including the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming; Newfields in Indianapolis, Indiana; Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia; Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona; Getty Center in Los Angeles; and Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In December, AVAM’s Sideshow gift shop was named America’s favorite museum store by members of the American Alliance of Museums.

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at