What’s happening?

As part of a competition to attract visitors to U.S. museums during the pandemic, comedian and TV show host John Oliver has selected Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) as one of five museums to receive $10,000 for operations costs, permission to exhibit three paintings from his personal collection, and exposure on his HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The award also includes a $10,000 donation to the Maryland Food Bank.

How badly was the museum hit by COVID? 

Entry to the museum costs up to $15.95. Before the pandemic, the museum drew between 110,000 to 125,000 visitors every year—about 55,000 of which were paid ticket admissions, according to the Baltimore Fishbowl. COVID shutdowns caused the museum to close from March 14, 2020 to September 25, 2020. In 2020, 16,242 people have paid to visit the museum.  

AVAM’s founder Rebecca Hoffberger also noted revenue loss from not hosting weddings and corporate events. “Out of a budget of what’s normally $3 million, which is modest by any standard, we lost…$1.19 million in income because of having to be closed,” she said. 

Anything else I should know? 

In November, Oliver will loan the museum a watercolor painting by Brian Swords called Stay Up Late, an oil painting by Judith Kudlow titled Ties, and an acrylic painting named Wendy Williams Eating a Lamb Chop (artist unknown), per the Baltimore Fishbowl. 


Watch Oliver announce the winners here.