Music, Art & Beautiful Things

A project at Baltimore's Evergreen Museum about contemporary youths' takes on the historic house museum and where they find meaning in its collections.

In the early twentieth century, when the Garrett Family bequeathed Evergreen House to Johns Hopkins University with the charge of making it available to "lovers of art, music, and beautiful things," they no doubt had notions of who that might be different from those of museum leaders in the twenty-first century. Youth fromKids on the Hill visit the museum to discover what they find meaningful about it.
Curator Jackie O'Regan takes through the museum a group of Park School students, who were then asked by their English teacher to write a fictional narrative set in the museum. Altogether, seven different colleges, schools, and youth-based organizations invited by Peter Bruun toured the museum to create work in response to their visits. 
Working with museum staff, Bruun placed 72 works by participating youth throughout the museum. Shown here is a painting on view in the historic home's dining room by a Stadium School 7th grade student showing his idea of a dinner party: pizza with friends in the ornate space.
Participants in the Youthlight program were intrigued by the many family photographs in the museum. They created self-portraits that Bruun then placed next to related images from the Evergreen Museum collection of Garrett family photographs.
Writers from Park School and the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program created fictional narratives taking place in the Garrett home. Bruun selected excerpts and strategically placed them throughout the museum's rooms on signage designed by Glen Burris.
Roland Park Country School middle schoolers were asked to pick their favorite children's books. Bruun placed these next to related children's books from the Garrett's collection, revealing the interests of Garrett children were not so far removed from those of young people today. The Garrett Library is shown to be more relevant to contemporary lives than might otherwise be thought.
Display of Kids on the Hill digital images. Each includes a phrase that begins "If Black people's history were better known..." and goes on to declare an honorable value of being Black. These are displayed next to photographs of luminaries the Garrett's knew, all of whom are white.
Visitors to the historic house museum are always led on docent tours. They are greeted at the start of their tour by this overhead sign announcing the presence of theMusic, Art, and Beautiful Things exhibition infiltrating the museum.
At the conclusion of the docent tour, visitors exit through a gallery space for temporary exhibitions. Here, Bruun created and displayed 72 paintings, each with the name of one of the 72 youth participants next to it.
The installation may be understood as a moment to "roll the credits" for the young people who contributed to the exhibition. At another level, each painting may be seen as a symbolic "drop of beauty" added to the museum and its meanings by the participating voices of the young people inMusic, Art, and Beautiful Things.
One of Bruun's paintings from theMusic, Art, and Beautiful Things exhibition. As with many of his studio projects, his paintings play a supporting role in highlighting the voices, expressions, and meanings of an otherwise community-based project.