Curator Talks: Guarding the Art

Join a series of in-gallery presentations led by the guest curators of the Guarding the Art exhibition, on view through July 10. Experience works of art through the lens of seven exhibition curators: Jessica Bither and Alex Dicken, Dereck Mangus, Bret Click, Rob Kempton, or Kellen Johnson and Sara Ruark. Each curator will discuss object selections influenced by their creative careers, intellectual backgrounds, and experiences as gallery officers.


RSVP required. Register here.


Curator Talks Schedule


Thursday, April 28


6—7 p.m.

Jessica Bither and Alex Dicken

This talk we will focus on a central question—what do you see? Alex and Jess will provide gentle guidance during a close-looking exercise. In the spirit of Guarding the Art we will collaboratively generate ideas, with audience participation encouraged. Our subjective experiences of works by Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, and Grace Hartigan will function as a foundation. However, much like our method of curation, the conversation will not adhere to rigid thematic parameters. Guests are encouraged to bring their outside interests into the discussion of the works. What connections will we uncover?


7—8 p.m.

Dereck Mangus 

Baltimore City’s landscape and its analog in the galleries are at the heart of Mangus’ selection. Join him as he conducts a verbal tour of the city, discussing the Washington Monument, battle sites of the War of 1812, and the vantage point in his selection (House of Frederick Crey, attributed to Thomas Ruckle), all the while never leaving the galleries and works on view!


Saturday, April 30


1—2 p.m.

Bret Click

Click will lead a gallery tour, exploring the 26 works picked by the curators, and ending with his person selection, Entry into the Ark, attributed to Jacopo Bassano.


2—3 p.m.

Rob Kempton  

Kempton will contextualize each of his chosen paintings to ground the viewer through biographical and contextual information. He will then speak on what visually emerges within these works and how close looking affects our understanding of art. Kempton then plans to tie these paintings to the BMA’s vision and mission dedicated to displaying often unrecognized artists, which he believes is deeply relevant.


Sunday, May 1


1—2 p.m.

Kellen Johnson and Sara Ruark 

Ruark and Johnson will discuss how and why their experiences in film and the performing arts influenced their object selections (Miniature totem pole possibly Haida, A World in Darkness by Karel Appel, Still Life with Large Shell by Max Beckmann, and Normandy Landscape by Hale Woodruff). This will be followed by a short recital by Johnson, who will sing a repertoire influenced by the artists shown in the exhibition.

About the Curators


Jessica Bither

In addition to working at the BMA Jess Bither is a lecturer at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Her favorite courses to teach are Avant-garde Film and Horror Movies. Jess’s research interests include reception theory, body genres, experimental and expanded cinema, Surrealism and photography. She listens to a variety of punk, post-hardcore, and noise rock to get energized before a long day of being on her feet in the galleries. In her spare time, she enjoys watching B movies and writing about them for local zines.


Bret Click

Bret Click has worked at the BMA since 2018. He’s a Maryland native who held several positions at CEC Entertainment in Annapolis for five years before joining the museum security team. He studied art history at Anne Arundel Community College and Towson University. He loves history and is currently experimenting with 18th-century cooking styles. He selected Entry into the Ark (c. 1575-80), attributed to Italian artist Jacopo Bassano, because he enjoys interacting with visitors who take a moment to observe the monumental painting.


Alex Dicken

Alex Dicken is from Baltimore City. He began working at the BMA as a security officer in 2019 and recently joined the visitor services team. He holds a BA in Philosophy from St. John’s College in Annapolis. Since graduating he has been studying philosophy and social theory autodidactically, runs and participates in reading groups, and writes both fiction and non-fiction, typically on topics related to digital culture and technology.  He is interested in minimalism in various mediums including music, film, and visual arts, prompting his selection of Max Ernst’s Earthquake, Late Afternoon.


Kellen Johnson

Baltimore native Kellen Johnson has worked as a security officer at the BMA since 2013. He is a classical voice performance major in his senior year at Towson University and recently won first prize in their annual James L. Dunbar Memorial Scholarship Competition. He is a member of the Towson University Chorale and Men’s Chorus and has performed with the Community College of Baltimore County Chamber Singers. He selected two paintings that reflect his interest in music: Max Beckmann’s Still Life with Large Shell (1939) and Hale Woodruff’s Normandy Landscape (1928).


Rob Kempton

Rob Kempton holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UMBC and a master’s degree in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. A published poet, Rob keenly sees the drama and emotion found within the brushwork and paint of abstract art. He believes the visual power held within Grace Hartigan’s Interior, ‘The Creeks’ and Alma Thomas’ Evening Glow explores connections between poetry and painting.


Dereck Stafford Mangus

Dereck Mangus has worked at the BMA since 2016, first in Visitor Services, then in Security and seasonally helps the museum’s objects conservator wash and wax the outdoor works in the sculpture garden. Mangus is a visual artist and writer based in Baltimore. He has exhibited his artwork in select galleries throughout Charm City, and his written work has appeared in Artblog, Frieze, Hyperallergic, and Full Bleed, the annual art and design journal published by the Maryland Institute College of Art where Mangus received his MA in Critical Studies in 2016.


Sara Ruark

Baltimore native Sara Ruark worked at the BMA from 2018 until the summer of 2021 but decided to continue her involvement to help realize the Guarding the Art exhibition. Currently working as a freelance journalist, content creator, and composer, Sara has a BS in film, multimedia, and mass communications from Towson University and studied photography and web building at Richmond University in London, UK. Sara selected Karel Appel’s A World in Darkness (1962) and Miniature Totem Pole possibly created by an unidentified Haida artist (mid-20th century) to shed light on individuals seeking self amidst times of uncertainty.

Guarding the Art is generously sponsored by Amy Elias and Richard Pearlstone/The Pearlstone Family Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Legum, Kwame Webb and Kathryn Bradley, the United Way of Central Maryland, David and Elizabeth Himelfarb Hurwitz, and Michael Sherman and Carrie Tivador.


The Details

Location BMA Main Campus 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm Cost Free; Registration required