a picture of Peter Bruun

Peter Bruun is an artist, educator, curator, and community activist in the arts. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1963 and raised in New York City, he moved to the Baltimore area in 1987 to attend graduate school. He has remained in the region ever since, currently dividing his time between Southwest Harbor, Maine, and Baltimore, Marlyand.

Bruun received a BA in Art History from Williams College in 1985 and went on to receive an MFA in 1989 from the Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Mount Royal School of Art. In addition to concentrating his efforts on making paintings and drawings after graduating, Bruun served a six-month stint as Gallery Manager for MICA, after which he spent several years teaching art and art history part-time at local colleges such as Carroll Community College, Dundalk Community College (now part of CCBC), and Villa Julie College (now Stevenson University).

In 1997, Villa Julie opened a new art center that included a gallery, but no plans for an exhibitions program. Bruun, with the support of a longtime faculty member friend, convinced the college to allow him to serve as volunteer Exhibitions Director for a year. The program succeeded, garnering such recognition as Baltimore City Paper’s “Top 10” for the year and Baltimore Magazine’s annual “Best of” list.

One of the more successful events held in May 1998 at Villa Julie was a symposium bringing together Baltimore’s visual art leaders. This event led to the forming of a seven-member group called the Baltimore Arts Advocates (BAA). In 1999, BAA presented a follow-up symposium (“Arts as a Magnet for Baltimore”) at The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), with Bruun serving as Symposium Coordinator.

An overflowing audience at the BMA event established a mandate for the arts community to unify, and within a year the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) was established—Bruun, a founding board member, continues to serve on the GBCA board today.

Following a six-month period in which he worked briefly as Exhibitions Manager for Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum in 1999, Bruun became founding Exhibitions Educator for The Park School of Baltimore, a position he held 2000-2005. As Exhibitions Educator, he pioneered a gallery program that put side-by-side works by local and national artists with art and objects from and by Park student and faculty. Exhibitions such as Racing with a PastTalking Pictures, and Very Young Art were community-wide creative explorations—Bruun developed a methodology for presenting art by established artists next to art by a sixth grader or five-year-old in such a manner that each participant is not only honored, but meanings enriched by the juxtapositions. This curatorial practice informed—and in turn was informed by—his ongoing studio work.

Between founding the Villa Julie Gallery program and concluding his tenure as Exhibitions Educator at Park, Bruun likes to say his art “evolved from being individual works, to being suites of work, to being component pieces of community-based projects.” His trajectory as an artist bringing educational, curatorial, and advocacy aspects into his practice can be seen in such projects as Conversation Piece (2000), Being Seen 1-2-3 (2001), Anonymous Requiem (2002), Reasons to Believe (2003), and Music, Art & Beautiful Things (2005).

In 2005, seeking to bridge the divide between his work at Park School and his studio practice, Bruun founded Art on Purpose, dedicated to using art to bring people together around issues and ideas. At the outset, projects were intended to at times center on his studio practice (Second Chances is an example from Art on Purpose’s first year). Within a year, however, art making was displaced by demands of administrative duties and projects such as Real City Dream CityMaps on PurposeEveryone an Artist, and Heroes in Our Midst—projects involving multiple artists, communities, and major cultural institutions (Bruun’s paintings had a small presence in Maps on Purpose).

In June 2010, Bruun stepped down as founding director, following a five-year run of having significant impact on Baltimore and its community arts scene, and an equally long dry period for his own studio practice. Bruun remained involved in Art on Purpose through 2011 and its final project (the organization folded in 2012), serving as Coordinator for Black Male Identity (BMI). In addition to his work with BMI in 2011, Bruun was contracted by Marian House to create 30 Women, 30 Stories, an Art on Purpose-like project centered around a book, audio stories, DVD, and traveling exhibition highlighting the success stories of 30 women whose lives had been transformed by Marian House.

Other art-related activities in which Bruun has been involved include: traveling to Amman, Jordan in 2007 (paintings of his were on loan to the State Department and displayed at the home of the United States’ Ambassador to Jordan) and in 2009 to Ramallah in the West Bank as a cultural envoy; serving as a consultant and advisor for Innovators Combatting Substance Abuse’s annual Art & Addiction exhibition (2006-2009) and Open Society Institute-Baltimore’s Moving Walls exhibitions in Baltimore (2005-2008). He continues to make himself available as a consultant, and from time to time is invited to speak on or write about various topics related to art and its connection to community.

Throughout his adult life, Bruun has been committed to his ever-evolving practice as an artist, and operated under the aegis of Bruun Studios since 2012. Bruun founded the New Day Campaign in early 2014, following the death of his daughter Elisif from heroin addiction. For more information on the New Day Campaign, visit www.newdaycampaign.org.