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American Visionary Art Museum wins $10K grant, ‘weird art’ exhibit in John Oliver-led contest

Out of a field of nearly 1,000 submissions, the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) was selected as one of five museums nationwide to exhibit three “weird works of art” selected by “Last Week Tonight” television host John Oliver.

AVAM Founder Rebecca Hoffberger said she was moved that “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver cared that the COVID pandemic and its forced public closures had caused losses to museums. Hoffberger included with her proposal a reference to comic truth tellers, inserting Oliver’s face into the classic photo of Oscar Wilde, shown, and one of Hoffberger’s favorite quotes, attributed to both Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. (Submitted photo)

AVAM’s required special three-week mini exhibition of the national tour titled, “Last Week Tonight’s Gallery for Cultural Enrichment,” (https://lwtgallery.com/) will showcase Oliver’s collection and open at AVAM Nov. 1 and run through Nov. 22.

As part of being selected as a host museum, AVAM will receive a $10,000 grant, with an equal amount being donated by Oliver to a regional food bank designated by AVAM. The Maryland Food Bank was selected as AVAM’s chosen recipient.

AVAM Founder Rebecca Hoffberger said she was moved that Oliver cared that the COVID pandemic and its forced public closures had caused losses to museums. Hoffberger included with her proposal a reference to comic truth tellers, inserting John Oliver’s face into the classic photo of Oscar Wilde.

The “weird art” museum-benefitting competition was conceived by Oliver in October 2020 to highlight the plight of museums and arts organizations in dealing with the COVID-19 global pandemic.  In response, nearly one-thousand museums of all sizes vied for selection, with many encouraging their patrons to lobby Oliver and Last Week Tonight through social media campaigns and online petitions.

Hoffberger submitted AVAM’s award-winning proposal to Mr. Oliver titled, “American Visionary Art Museum’s Honeymoon for Amorous Rats, Baltimore and Thee, Mr. Oliver” — a reference to one of the three of Oliver’s works by Artist Brian Swords.

Hoffberger’s proposal was accompanied with a photoshopped image of Oliver as Oscar Wilde and one of Hoffberger’s favorite quotes, attributed to both Wilde and George Bernard Shaw: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Hoffberger went on to detail that the AVAM has a small annual budget – its budget is the smallest of any of Maryland’s 13 major cultural attractions – and yet has been listed on numerous must-see attractions lists nationwide. The AVAM recently won the 2020 World TravelAdvisory Award from TripAdvisor, designating AVAM as in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.