Each of the five winners receives $10,000 and the chance to exhibit art from Oliver's collection.
A Charm City landmark is on the receiving end of an incredible honor, courtesy of comedian John Oliver.
On Wednesday, the Baltimore Fishbowl reported the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Baltimore was among five museums selected in the Last Week Tonight host's "Masterpiece Gallery" contest to help art museums in the United States weather the storm of the Coronavirus pandemic. It was chosen from over 1,000 submissions along with the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago, the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center in Detroit, and San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum. Each museum will receive $10,000 to support operations and the same amount to a local food bank of their choice. AVAM selected the Maryland Food Bank to collect the donation.
"We were deeply moved that Mr. Oliver recognized and cared that the COVID pandemic and its forced public closures had caused grievous losses to museums," AVAM founder Rebecca Hoffberger said in a public statement. "That he then cooked up such a highly visible and fun challenge to publicly underscore that need - well, we were smitten!”
Humongous thanks to @iamjohnoliver @LastWeekTonight for selecting AVAM as 1 of only 5 museums nationwide to host his very “fine” works of “art” Nov 1-22! We’re thrilled! @MDFoodBank @MayorBMScott @BaltimoreMD https://t.co/5LSxXXMbVj— AmVisionaryArtMuseum (@TheAVAM) August 26, 2021
Since Oliver is an art collector, the contest includes a very special perk. AVAM will get to display three paintings from Oliver's personal art collection between November 1-22 as part of his Last Week Tonight's Gallery for Cultural Enrichment. The "weird works of art" are Brian Swords' Stay Up Late (1992), Judith Kudlow's Ties, and Wendy Williams Eating a Lamb Chop (2020), all of which fit the quirky spirit AVAM is known for!
Last Week Tonight's Masterpiece Gallery was held back in October to assist art museums who've struggled during the COVID-19 lockdowns. According to Baltimore Fishbowl, AVAM closed back in March 2020 and opened the following September, but lower attendance spurred a massive drop in revenue compared to years past. The majority of support comes from public and private contributions as opposed to funding from the city, and with no grant programs available similar for local restaurants, cultural institutions like museums have had to rely on the generosity of the public to stay afloat.
We're going on tour! Museums are struggling, so, in an effort to help, we’re going to pick five museums to host these fine works of art! We’ll be donating $10k to each museum, and $10k to a food bank in their area. Museums can email [email protected] to apply! pic.twitter.com/cTsBDTvDSk— Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) October 5, 2020
Hoffberger said she is "thrilled" about the recognition and is a fan of the comedian, whose HBO show discusses politics and current events with a humorous flair. The museum will be featured in a show segment this fall.
"Mr. Oliver has long made a high art of using humor to speak truth to power," Hoffberger said. "We hold him in high esteem as our natural brethren to AVAM’s own creative social justice DNA!”
The American Visionary Art Museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can reserve your tickets here.
Many congrats to AVAM and the rest of the winners! Have you visited the museum before? Let us know what you thought in the comments.