Baltimore’s Largest Museum Is Doing Something Bold and Brave, and a Lot of Conservative Men Are Gonna Hate It

“To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”

Amy Sherald. Planes, Rockets, and the Spaces in Between (detail). 2018. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase by exchange with funds provided by the Pearlstone Family Fund and through a partial gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. © 2019 Amy Sherald.

Welcome to Recharge, a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. See more editions and sign up here.

How can a museum challenge decades of gender imbalance in what it displays to the public? The Baltimore Museum of Art has a plan for 2020: Every painting, sculpture, and photograph it purchases for its permanent collection will be by women.

“We’re attempting to correct our own canon,” museum director Christopher Bedford told the Baltimore Sun. “We recognize the blind spots we have had in the past, and we are taking the initiative to do something about them.”

Every museum should do this, said Bianca Kovic, incoming executive director of the New York–based National Association of Women Artists.

Among the artwork the Baltimore museum has purchased: Planes, Rockets, and the Spaces in Between, a 2018 painting by Amy Sherald, best known for her portrait of Michelle Obama in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Bedford said the Baltimore museum had no choice: “To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”

Here are more Recharge stories to get you through the week: 

Her mind worked differently. When she awoke from surgery, Oscar-winning actor Mary Steenburgen couldn’t stop thinking about music. Everything was music. She wrote music and lyrics incessantly. And wouldn’t stop playing the accordion. Her family was worried. “I couldn’t get my mind into any other mode,” she acknowledged. Years later, refusing to trade on her stardom, she wrote songs using a pseudonym and landed a contract on the strength of her creativity, including one of the best movie songs of the year. (Indie Wire)

A helping hand. He was the only person working at Waffle House that night, after his expected help didn’t arrive—so first one customer, then another, began helping the employee, named Ben, with orders, dishes, coffee, and table cleaning. “It was just one of the most wild instances of really, really cool people just coming together,” said customer Ethan Crispo, who recorded the late-night scene at the Birmingham, Alabama, restaurant. The chain said it was grateful for the emergency support and urged one helper to fill out a job application. (al.com)

Therapy llamas. Readers, I made a vow that I wouldn’t clutter Recharge with cute pandas or with puppies that found their way back home. But I never said anything about the three 300-pound llamas that stroll through a Texas nursing home, getting petted by residents and pausing for selfies. One therapy llama, Knock, has walked to a hospice patient’s bed and waited while the patient reaches out for him. “It’s taken me several visits,’’ said llama owner Carol Rutledge, “to be able to get through it without getting emotional.” (New York Times)

I’ll leave you with this image of what the Interior Department’s Twitter feed calls alpenglow at the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in California. Please send links or tips for possible Recharge items to recharge@motherjones.com. Have a glowing week, and thanks for reading.

More MotherJones reporting on Recharge

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.