It’s true what they say about one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. 

There’s a story that goes something like this:

Someone, somewhere, tossed out a bag of stale bagels that were…well, stale. Then someone else came along, looked at the same bag of discarded bagels and said to themselves, “I could salvage these and make a killer art piece.” So, they fished them out and hot glued them up. And that was the day the brilliant bagel display was born. 

Okay, that’s a made-up story. 

But, the bagel display is 100% real and was a feature at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) in Maryland over the summer. The museum is nearby the Baltimore Inner Harbor. You’ll know the building when you see it because it’s completely bedazzled, with an equally bedazzled bus to match. 

AVAM in Baltimore, front view of building

Photos via AVAM / Jack Hoffberger

The foundation is home to more than 4,000 displays of unique, visionary art.

Visionary art is best described as the kind of raw art created by self-taught artists without any formal training. Basically: They do what they want. 

The artists care less about rules and more about expressing what they are feeling at the moment, with whatever tools they have on hand, even if it comes down to bagels, toothpicks, or a mountain of laundry – Which is also a real display, by the way. There’s a whole wad of forsaken bras in the middle of one of the galleries. Yes, seriously. (Thousands of people reading everywhere just dropped their dirty laundry baskets in the name of art.)


You will want to see this stuff for yourself!

AVAM is open Tuesday-Sunday and closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is the main building, a second smaller building and a garden walkway in between. Some art pieces are on display for a short time, often based on a similar theme like the bagel display and, “The History, Fantasy, and Future of Food.”

Other pieces are a part of the museum’s more permanent collection, including these must-sees:  

Giant Whirligig, by Vollis Simpson

Giant Whirligig

Photo via AVAM

Created by a 76-year-old farmer and visionary artist, the Giant Whirligig is a can’t miss wind-powered sculpture located in the central plaza. It stands at 55-feet tall and is one of Baltimore’s favorite outdoor landmarks. You will know why when you’re marveling up at it. It makes you feel, well, that answer will likely vary from each person. But, that’s the beauty of art, isn’t it? There is no wrong answer, and it makes for a fun debate. So, bring a friend!

World’s First Family of Robots, by DeVon Smith

These robots, built out of 100% recycled parts including fans, hair-blowers, TV antenna’s and other household electrical appliances made their debut in 1999. Sometime the following year, an official robot wedding took place at the museum, complete with cake and champagne for all visitors. The robot family has been living happily-ever-after, ever since. 

Baltimore Painted Screens & Rowhome Theatre, by William Oktavec

Painted screens have some history in Baltimore. In 1913, a tradition was born after a grocer named, William Oktavec began painting the displays of his storefront in “Little Bohemia.” The screens quickly grew in popularity, and people paid Mr. Oktavec for their own custom painted screens. He charged them each one dollar. 


Make an entire day out of the museum and eat at their restaurant, “Encantada,” located on the third level. It’s the Spanish word for, “enchanted” or “delighted,” both of which you are sure to be. All of the food and drinks are like tiny works of art. Most are probably too pretty to eat but, it won’t stop you!

The menu is carefully crafted with each season in mind to support local farms and ranches, and all of the food and drinks are from the freshest ingredients. The list has plenty to choose from for everyone: Meat-eater, Vegan, Vegetarian and Pescatarian alike. Yelp gives it four stars.

Don’t forget to take a picture, or it didn’t happen. You’re allowed to play with your food here.


Photo of the Sideshow shop located inside of the AVAM

Photo via AVAM

You can’t pass a gift shop without buying a present for yourself. It’s an unwritten rule. Good luck picking out only one thing. This spunky store located on the first floor has it all from original art, books and funny greeting cards to toys, handmade jewelry, and trinkets. 

If you’ve visited the American Visionary Art Museum before: which display was your favorite and why? Shout it out.  Are you thinking of making a trip to Baltimore soon? Take a look at our sister site, for the best hotel deals.