Prayer candles depicting American Visionary Art Museum Founder Rebecca Alban Hoffberger sit alongside other items in the museum’s Sideshow gift shop. Photo courtesy of Sideshow/Instagram.

America’s favorite museum store is in Baltimore, according to a recent survey.

When the American Alliance of Museums asked its members to name their favorite museum store this year, Sideshow at the American Visionary Art Museum was named more than any other store in the country.

“By far the most-mentioned store was at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum,” AAM’s Joseph O’Neill said in an announcement of the poll results, posted in the organization’s Alliance Blog.

“Operated independently by Ted Frankel, a.k.a. ‘Uncle Fun,’ the Sideshow store bills itself as ‘a definite match to the museum’s message and philosophy, tapping into intuitive expression and a child-like sense of wonder,’” O’Neill said. “In addition to original artworks, its exuberant assortment includes scarves and bowls made from recycled saris, ‘snarky’ kitchen towels, and ‘cheap tricks and gags.’”

“It is as if a proper upstanding fine art museum store met and fell in love with (and whose parents do not approve of) a scientific, industrial, electronic, and mechanical surplus store, and then had a child,” said Joe Imholte, who responded to the poll.

“When I take out-of-town visitors, I tell them we need to plan an hour for the store,” said Shannon Marie Smith, another Sideshow fan.

Following Sideshow in the survey were: the MoMA Design Store in New York, affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan; The National Building Museum Shop in Washington, D.C.; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Shop in Richmond, Virginia; the National Gallery of Art Shops in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Jurassic Technology Gift Shop in Culver City, California; the Art Institute of Chicago Museum Shop in Chicago; and the Field Museum Store in Chicago.

Sideshow is located on the first level of the American Visionary Art Museum, at 800 Key Highway in Baltimore. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

With direct connections to their institution’s educational missions, museum stores are traditionally good places for holiday shopping, O’Neill said.

“Museumgoers know that one of the best places to find distinctive, cherishable objects, books and apparel is in a museum store,” he wrote. “Particularly in this season of gift giving, any savvy shopper would do well to peruse the physical or virtual shelves of one.”

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Ed Gunts

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