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Meet the security guards moonlighting as curators at the Baltimore Museum of Art

The guards spend more time with these works than anyone else in the museum.

  • By Susan Stamberg/NPR
Hale Woodruff. Normandy Landscape. 1928. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Fund, BMA 2002.279

Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art

Hale Woodruff. Normandy Landscape. 1928. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Fund, BMA 2002.279

Everyone I tell about this story immediately smiles — it’s such a great idea. Last year, the Baltimore Museum of Art invited their guards to curate an exhibition. And since then, BMA security officers have been working on it with professional curators and other staffers, leading up to its March 27 opening. Working with various museum departments, they learned what it takes to put up an exhibition — and got paid for it, too, in addition to their regular salaries. And they had a terrific time, at least according to the ones I spoke with. One of them, in fact, burst into song!

Kellen Johnson has been a guard at the BMA for almost nine years. He’s also studying vocal performance at Towson University in Maryland. He loves music, as well the extra money from the project. “I’m working my way through college” he says.

Christopher Myers/Baltimore Museum of Art

Baltimore native Kellen Johnson has been a guard at the BMA for almost nine years.

With most of the museum’s collection to choose from, Kellen picked this Hale Woodruff work for the exhibition.

Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art

Hale Woodruff. Normandy Landscape. 1928. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Fund, BMA 2002.279

Kellen’s passion for music informed his choice. “I asked myself, ‘if these paintings could sing, what would they sound like?'” That one sang Mozart to him. “Made me think about walking along a row of trees on a darkish day.”

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