1 West Mount Vernon Place, the Walters Art Museum’s awe-inspiring 19th-century mansion, opens on Saturday, June 16, after a multi-year transformation. Located in the heart of Mount Vernon, 1 West offers visitors exciting new ways to experience the Walters’ renowned collection in one of Baltimore’s most distinctive and spectacular buildings.
“With the reopening of 1 West Mount Vernon Place, we are thrilled to showcase the Walters in new ways,” says Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “This project represents the next step in the museum’s evolution as a place where we can collaborate with the public to create exceptional experiences that are accessible to a wide range of audiences.”
The Walters approached 1 West as a work of art in its own right, creating new experiences of the building. The project showcases the building’s striking interior features, such as the grand spiral staircase, the Tiffany stained-glass skylight, and Baccarat-style chandeliers. The $10.4 million project, completed on time and on budget, received a Best of Maryland award from Preservation Maryland and was supported by the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, the France-Merrick Foundation, Leo and Anna Belle Sirota, Baltimore County, Martha Ann Peters, and other generous donors.
“Through extensive new research we uncovered a rich and unique assemblage of stories that reach from the early history of the United States to the present moment,” says Eleanor Hughes, Deputy Director for Art & Program and the curator of the project. “While they are the stories of individuals, they resonate so strongly with broader issues and themes that we began to see the story of 1 West as a micro-history of Baltimore and the nation.”
Nineteenth-century paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts are featured on the first floor of the house alongside new works commissioned by the Walters from acclaimed ceramicist Roberto Lugo. Lugo’s art is inspired by specific works in the Walters’ collection and reflects his experiences as an artist of color. The display in the home’s dining room includes a letter written by Sybby Grant, the enslaved cook of the Thomas family, who were 1 West’s original owners. Grant wrote the letter to Dr. John Hanson Thomas during the Civil War, when he was imprisoned for his secessionist activities.
On the second floor, an installation gathers ceramics from across the Walters’ collection. It also showcases a community art project, led by Baltimore ceramicist and educator Herb Massey and Jubilee Arts, that incorporates over 200 plates made by members of the Baltimore community, as well as a video installation created in collaboration with faculty and students at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Visitors can also create their own experience in Studio 1 West, a “maker space” where people of all ages can fashion and display their own works of art. And to enhance visitors’ experience of the home, the Walters created a free, interactive app (available June 15) that can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.
1 West was given to the City of Baltimore in 1984, through an arrangement made possible by an extraordinary donation from Baltimore businessman and philanthropist Willard Hackerman. Following a competition held to determine the building’s use, the house opened as part of the Walters Art Museum in 1991.
On June 16, the Walters celebrates the opening of 1 West Mount Vernon Place with a free block party on Mount Vernon Square featuring an array of special programs, an opening ceremony, food trucks, art making, and performances for visitors of all ages.
Marks, Thomas Architects was the architect of record for the project. Lewis Contractors was the general contractor. Exhibit design/interiors created by R+A+M Design Studio. The project manager and owner’s representative was Regan Associates, LLC. Trivium designed the interactive app. Additional firms that worked on the project include: Flux Design, exhibition lighting; Mueller Associates, Inc., M/E/P engineer, and Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., building envelope.
ABOUT THE WALTERS ART MUSEUM
The Walters Art Museum is a cultural hub in the heart of Baltimore, located in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The museum’s collection spans more than seven millennia, from 5,000 BCE to the 21st century, and encompasses 36,000 objects from around the world. Walking through the museum’s historic buildings, visitors encounter a stunning panorama of thousands of years of art, from romantic 19th-century images of French gardens to mesmerizing Ethiopian icons, richly illuminated Qur’ans and Gospel books, ancient roman sarcophagi, and serene images of the Buddha. Since its founding, the Walters’ mission has been to bring art and people together to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art. As part of this commitment, admission to the museum and special exhibitions is always free.
(via the Walters Art Museum. Photo courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.)