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Baltimore Museum of Art and Phoenix Art Museum Announce Guarding the Art Partnership with Exhibition Planned for 2024

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) today announced a partnership to develop and implement a new edition of the acclaimed Guarding the Art exhibition in Phoenix, which is scheduled to premiere in February 2024.

Guarding the Art is a groundbreaking initiative that invites security officers and gallery attendants to gain deeper knowledge about every facet of exhibition development and create an exhibition of artworks that most resonate with their personal interests. Following the model developed by the BMA after its 2022 exhibition debut, PhxArt staff will work toward their own iteration of Guarding the Art over the next year. The forthcoming presentation at PhxArt marks the start of a national roll-out for the exhibition-driven initiative in museums across the United States. This first national iteration of the initiative is sponsored by PNC Bank and the Pearlstone Family Fund.

Guarding the Art was conceived by longtime BMA Trustee Amy Elias to highlight the unique perspectives and reflections of security staff, informed by their many hours in the galleries, their interactions with visitors and their unique interests and experiences. “It was always part of my vision to inspire other museums around the country to bring Guarding the Art to their institutions,” said Elias. “Phoenix is the perfect next step as its leadership embraces a similar philosophy to the BMA in its approach to recognizing and celebrating inclusion, diversity and equity.”

The process for creating the exhibition also allowed for professional development and mentorship opportunities for participating security staff as they connected with museum staff across departments as well as with an outside mentor with extensive experience in the field. The exhibition, which challenged traditional museum hierarchies and fostered considerable dialogue about who can and should talk about art, premiered to significant public interest in Baltimore in March 2022. “It was incredible to witness the energy in the galleries while this exhibition was open,” noted Dr. Asma Naeem, Interim Co-Director and Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator. “Privileging new voices among museum staff invigorated our visitors to engage more freely and more confidently with the art. It made the museum more accessible.”

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BMA Trustee Amy Elias with Asma Naeem, BMA Interim Co-Director and Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator. Photo by Erika Nizborski