On Saturday, June 16, Baltimore residents and beyond are invited to join Walters Art Museum for its free reopening ceremony and tour the revamped building located at 1 West Mount Vernon Place – formerly known as Hackerman House.
Sitting in the heart of Mount Vernon, the19th-century mansion is one of Charm City’s most beautiful and historic sites featuring a collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative art carefully selected to represent Baltimore’s cultural background.
“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,” Eleanor Hughes, Deputy Director for Art & Programs and curator for 1 West Mount Vernon Place, says. “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.”
The $10.4 million project uncovers history about the house’s first owners’ (the Thomas family) enslaved cook Sybby Grant who wrote an infamous letter (on display in the museum) to Dr. John Hanson Thomas during the Civil War when he was sent to prison for his secessionist activities. In addition to the letter and other treasured findings, it also features a collection of 400+ plates from a community art project led by Baltimore ceramicist Herb Massie and highlights items the Walters admired from ceramicist Roberto Lugo, an artist of color who specializes in themes of race and identity.
“Being able to work with the Walters feels like I have the opportunity to make a bridge between museums and people who haven’t always been represented there,” Lugo says. Some of his work on display highlights then and now moments unique to Baltimore from Frederick Douglass (escaped slavery in Maryland in the 1800s) to Freddie Gray (died in Baltimore police custody in 2015). He also made a set of plates dedicated to Sybby to give her a voice in today’s society.
Though it sat unpretty and juggled a few owners prior, 1 West Mount Vernon Place opened up as a part of the Walters Art Museum in 1991. Transformed yet again for 2018 to reflect “evolution,” it reopens to the public on June 16.