Arts District

Why We Work Opens at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

New BMI exhibit curated by JHU and MICA students depicts a more personal side of industry.

By Lauren LaRocca | May 17, 2018, 4:25 pm

Bertha Marshall, berry picker, Jenkins Farm, near Baltimore, 1909, courtesy of Lewis Hine/Library of Congress; and a bartender at W.C. Harlan cocktail bar, Remington, 2013, courtesy of Christopher Myers.
Arts District

Why We Work Opens at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

New BMI exhibit curated by JHU and MICA students depicts a more personal side of industry.

By Lauren LaRocca | May 17, 2018, 4:25 pm

Bertha Marshall, berry picker, Jenkins Farm, near Baltimore, 1909, courtesy of Lewis Hine/Library of Congress; and a bartender at W.C. Harlan cocktail bar, Remington, 2013, courtesy of Christopher Myers.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry is a stunning tribute to bygone eras with its displays of a massive canning machine, antique cars, archaic medicinal products, once-upon-a-time printing presses, and countless other artifacts from our country’s past.

But a contemporary exhibit opens this weekend in a small BMI gallery space and focuses instead on the personal side of industry—the people who went to work each day to make these products and provide these services, and the people today who continue in these roles, even as time has changed them.

Why We Work, chiefly curated by Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Institute College of Art students, asks just that: Why do we work? What is our work? How does it shape us?

The exhibit is twofold. One wall combines spellbinding black-and-white historical photos alongside recent images by Baltimore contributing photographer Christopher Myers that show locals past and present in their working environments: A Baltimore Gas and Electric engineer at his desk in 1966, a streetcar car conductor in 1943, a bartender in Remington in 2013, a Hampden mortician in 2014.

-Lauren LaRocca

The second component of the show involves you. Guests are invited to answer three multiple-choice questions by placing a colored dot sticker beside their answers. Each color corresponds to a career field: finance, hospitality, education, and so on (“retired” and “other” are also options). In the resulting art pieces, which will change over time as more visitors engage with the piece, show trends in the workforce—from both the general public and specific career fields. For instance, under the “What motivates you at work?” question, several  blue—i.e., healthcare—dots fill the “service” box, while the “creativity” motivator is dense with the lime-green dots of the culture/creative workforce.

Museum Lab, a course that the BMI director of interpretation Beth Maloney teaches at JHU, was the impetus for the project. Students were asked how they might enhance visitor interaction. They wanted to create a contemporary piece, Maloney says. Part of the process involved students going to BMI and surveying visitors about their jobs. Those responses were used to compile the prompts and the response option.

-Lauren LaRocca

As the last leg of the conceptual portion of the process, JHU teamed up with Jeremy Hoffman’s graphic design students at MICA, who prepared nine exhibit proposals for those in Museum Lab to consider.

Several people involved in the making of the show—including Myers, Maloney, Hoffman, and BMI director Anita Kassof—will be at its opening at Saturday, May 19 at 11 a.m. Museum entrance is free that day as a celebration to kick off the 10th season of the BMI farmers’ market. The show will remain on view through April 14, 2019.




Meet The Author

Lauren LaRocca is a freelance writer for Baltimore magazine, where she covers arts, entertainment, music, and culture.



You May Also Like



Arts District

Artist S. Rasheem Brings Gender Identities to Light at Jubilee Arts

New exhibit S/he Handsome focuses on black, queer representation.

Arts District

Comedians Share Awkward Stories of Sex, Love, and Hookups at Motor House

Awkward Sex...and the City comes to Baltimore for a night of hilarious storytelling.


MaxSpace

Movie Review: Greta

Don't be fooled: This is B-movie horror dressed up in a classy package.

Arts & Culture

Wonder Women

Celebrate trailblazers and groundbreaking accomplishments during Women’s History Month.

Arts & Culture

Private Eyes

Boudoir photography takes off.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Fancy Clancy Pilsner to Debut at Sliders on Opening Day: The beloved beer vendor finally gets a brew to call his own.

March Madness Food and Drink Specials That Are Slam Dunks: Fill out your bracket and head to these local watering holes for NCAA games.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Maryland Prepares to Open in Jonestown: We chat with president and CEO Sandy Pagnotti about the new Baltimore facility.

Catherine Pugh Resigns From UMMS Board Amid $500,000 Book Deal Controversy: Baltimore mayor earned $100,000 in profits in burgeoning ethics scandal.

Five Things to Know About Broadway Market in Fells Point: For starters, one of the stalls officially opens today.