In March 2022, the Baltimore Museum of Art will open a new exhibit curated by the museum’s security staff.
The exhibit Guarding the Art will feature works from the museum’s collections selected by participating security guards. The works cover a range of mediums and a variety of topics, including social justice, resilience, and the environment. The concept for the exhibit grew out of conversations around the museum’s commitment to equity and ways to better represent the community the institution serves. The guards spend countless hours around the art, and the exhibition was conceived as a way to make their voices and perspectives on it known.
After an inquiry was sent to the security staff regarding their interest in participating, seventeen staff members opted to act as guest curators. According to a press release, the 17 officers who elected to participate are Traci Archable-Frederick, Jess Bither, Ben Bjork, Ricardo Castro, Melissa Clasing, Bret Click, Alex Dicken, Kellen Johnson, Michael Jones, Rob Kempton, Chris Koo, Alex Lei, Dominic Mallari, Dereck Mangus, Sara Ruark, Joan Smith, and Elise Tensley. The group reflects a broad range of backgrounds and interests with officers who are also artists, chefs, musicians, scholars, and writers.
Alex Lei, one of the participating guards, told ARTnews that he hopes the exhibit will change the way the public thinks about museum security guards. “I think this show will help change people’s perspective on us, and the art works at the museum. Security guards are literally against the background at museums. We walk by them, we know they’re there, but we don’t always realize that they’re more than just wall fixtures.”