Saturday, April 24, 2010

Baltimore Zoo Opens for the Season

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore opened the gates on the 2010 season Saturday. Although the rainy day opening limited the turnout, those who attended enjoyed seeing the animals, and reportedly the animals enjoyed the company. As a result of the recent heavy snows some of the exhibits, like the Marsh Aviary and African Aviary will remain closed until they can be repaired. Even with the damage to some parts of the zoo there is still plenty to enjoy. Start Spring early by getting out of the house and enjoy a cost saving adventure. Going to the zoo is a great way to connect with nature, your family and even yourself.

Mark Saturday, March 20th, on your calendar to celebrate Sampson, the baby elephant's, second birthday. Participants will sing happy birthday to the zoo's youngest elephant, get their faces painted, and enjoy a slice of cake from Charm City Cakes. The celebration will be from 11 AM to 1 PM. Don't forget to sign Sampson's birthday card while you are there.

The Maryland Zoo’s African Journey is the largest exhibit area on the 160 acre zoo, dedicated to the animals and birds of the African continent. A few of the many exhibits include leopards, cheetahs, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, lions, chimpanzees, vultures and West African cranes.

A favorite feature in the African Journey is the giraffe feeding plaza where you can feed the giraffe’s everyday between 10:30 and 3 pm. Be aware the giraffe feeding areas may be closed if the field remains too muddy for them.

The Maryland Wilderness is featured in the Children's Zoo and represents the animals, birds and reptiles of the state. Included in the exhibit are domesticated animals like goats and sheep and typical farm animals. This part of the zoo has a lot of interaction to keep young kids interested in discovering more about animal and their habitat. They have Plexiglas enclosures to watch river otter’s underwater, a cave to see bats and snakes and even an ecological tree built with stairs that you walk up inside. At the top of the tree is an optional slide, a favorite with the kids.

One of the first exhibit areas in the zoo, after taking the tram from the entrance, is the Polar Bear Watch. From here you can see the largest predators in the world, Alaska and Magnet, and their newest addition, Anoki. Anoki is on loan from the New Mexico Biological Park in Albuquerque. A unique aspect of this exhibit is an actual Tundra Buggy that is air conditioned and overlooks the water and bear habitat.

Not only is a trip to the zoo a great way to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends it is an opportunity to learn about and discuss how we take care of animals and our surroundings. The zoo is a good day trip that can be educational in many ways. On my last visit, my daughter asked me who was faster, a cheetah or a leopard. I now know it is the cheetah, running at up to 70 miles per hour for long distances compared to about 40 miles per hour in short bursts for the leopard.

The zoo is open every day ten months a year, from March through December, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The hours are 10 am to 4 pm. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate. Online adult tickets, and weekday gate prices are: $14, children $10 and seniors $12. Weekend rates are: adults $16, children $11, and seniors $13. Parking is free.

Consider an annual family membership for $99 and enjoy a year of great visits.

American Visionary Art Museum - Baltimore

BALTIMORE, MD. - What are the threads that connect Sadaam Hussein’s reluctant personal physician, a 1919 Japanese immigrant, and the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy? The answers reside within the American Visionary Art Museum exhibit running through September 2010, in Baltimore, Maryland.

This is where the creative work of more than 50 visionary and self taught artists come together to display the intimacies of their cultural quest for human rights, civil rights, freedom and happiness. While the American Declaration of Independence is the thread for this monumental exhibit, the underlying concept is the human struggle, throughout the world, for freedom, equal dignity and basic rights. Contemporary and historical artists from disparate backgrounds use a variety of media to tell the stories of their experience and heritage.

Doctor Ala Bashir, renown plastic surgeon and Iraq's most famous painter, has three paintings on canvas and a terra cotta sculpture on display. His sculpture, The Cry, was the model for the 32 foot bronze monument erected in Iraq to commemorate where 400 women and children were killed in the first Gulf War. Basher was the personal physician and artist for former Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein until his overthrow in April 2003. When his vivid, twisted images of human suffering are compared to surreal painters, based upon his style, he is quoted as saying "My duty was to compete with death, the surrealists artists were dreaming dreams, I am painting what I saw."

Henry Sugimoto, a Japanese immigrant to the United States in 1919, captured his pursuit of the American dream experiences through a paint brush. His impressionistic paintings took on new meaning after his forced internment in the Fresno detention center in central California and Jerome and Rohwer concentration camps in Arkansas . His poignant style documents the experiences of Japanese Americans held behind barbed wire on American soil.

Early Native American art sheds light on the historical significance of the Iroquois nations that influenced the U.S. Constitution. Early natives had a democratic process in place generations before the Declaration of Independence. In fact George Washington and Benjamin Franklin invited representatives of the Iroquois Confederacy to Philadelphia in 1776, which likely served as an opportunity for them to learn about the Iroquois very successful form of government.

The struggle for America's civil rights, by African Americans, is creatively captured in thirteen letters sent to Charles Morgan Jr. in 1963. This is a collection of letters: hate mail and encouraging letters, juxtaposed against the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four young black girls. He spoke the day after the bombing to white leaders and businessmen whom he blamed for creating an atmosphere of racial hatred. After leaving Birmingham, he led a successful life as a civil rights lawyer.

The quest for freedom is also immortalized by Pedro Martin Declet, a former inmate who found his voice through art. He depicts his personal struggles and those of society through collage and assemblages, like his collage "Portrait de Genocide".

Experiencing the exhibit:

The entire exhibit combines history and art in a very unique and interactive manner. For teachers or students, the American Visionary Art Museum is a fascinating land of discovery with permanent exhibits that complement the traveling shows. Lesson plans for grades 5 through 12 are available on the AVAM website. Even if you are not a student these plans will help to navigate, focus, and get more out of your visit to an extraordinary spot.

Spend the day and plan on staying for lunch or dinner (or both) at Mr. Rains Funhouse, located in the museum.

The American Visionary Art Museum is located at the base of Federal Hill, south of Baltimore's Inner Harbor at 800 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD 21230-3940. The museum is open 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday-Sunday, except Christmas and Thanksgiving day. Cost is $14 for adults, $8 for students and there are discounts for seniors and groups of ten or more.