The Glenstone Museum Features Breathtaking Art Exhibited Amidst a Campus of Natural Wonders

Visitors to the Glenstone Museum don’t see very much in the way of written text explaining the art. Instead, visitors need to just speak their questions aloud and a voice will respond with all the history, context and backstory they seek. The Glenstone, however, is not a place where digital devices robotically intrude on the museum experience. In fact, it is a serene place, and those voices visitors hear answering questions belong to actual humans simply known as guides.

The visitor experience, says Emily Grebenstein, Glenstone’s manager of communications, “is not just about art but understanding architecture and the landscape behind it. It’s a holistic approach to the visitor experience.”

“We really do have guides everywhere,” she adds, referring to the many elements of the museum’s campus where guides are stationed, including paths, trails, streams, meadows, forests and outdoor sculptures throughout the grounds. The museum follows an organic approach to landscaping and maintains a composting station where they produce compost tea to use as fertilizer and soil amendment. There are three underground cisterns to manage rainfall flow and recycle the water for landscaping needs.

It’s all part of the balanced ecosystem at Glenstone where even the on-site dining venues (the Café and the Patio) are part of their commitment to natural harmony as they feature organic local ingredients in their menu of soups, sandwiches, salads and snacks, all of which Glenstone’s guides are happy to explain.

Founded in 2006, the Glenstone began with 9,000 square feet of exhibition space filled with modern and contemporary art. After a recently completed five-year expansion, the museum now includes the original gallery plus the Pavilions for a total of nearly 60,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus 130 acres appended to the property that now spans nearly 300 acres. The 11 rooms of the Pavilions host varied exhibitions and are illuminated almost entirely by natural light. The rooms are connected by a glass-enclosed passage that looks out onto an 18,000-square-foot water court that is home to seasonally changing plant life.

Everything about Glenstone is carefully designed to create this type of peaceful, contemplative experience. Achieving and maintaining that laid-back vibe, however, takes some serious effort, starting with the guides.   

Most of the museum’s 40-plus guides are part of Glenstone’s Emerging Professionals Program, for which the museum recruits university students pursuing art-related but also other degrees, into their two-year system. During the two years, guides learn everything about Glenstone and every aspect of operating an art museum, including administrative functions. They can answer nearly every question about the artwork exhibitions but also about Glenstone’s trees, plants, ponds, forests, etc.

The guides in the Emerging Professionals Program work full-time. On the days the museum is open to the public (Thursday through Sunday), the guides answer questions and facilitate discussions with visitors. Other times, they visit schools as part of Glenstone’s community outreach, they visit art studios and other museums, they welcome guest lecturers and more.

“It’s hard to break into the arts field,” says Emily, who adds that the guides leave the Emerging Professionals Program very well-rounded and with unique experience under their belt.

Later in 2019, Glenstone will open its Environmental Center, a multi-use maintenance and education facility that will offer experiential learning in areas such as composting, organic landscape management, waste reduction, materials recycling and water conservation. As part of Glenstone’s connection to the community, Environmental Center visitors will learn how they can incorporate these methods at home. In addition, the museum brings in middle school and high school students for educational programs.

And it’s not always art classes. Recently, students came from a Baltimore trade/vocational school.

“They spent time with our engineering and maintenance team,” Emily says. “You can be an engineer at a museum. The needs for those skills are big here,” she explains.

She also describes Glenstone’s commitment to connecting student’s experiences at the museum to other aspects of their life.

Visitors to Glenstone are drawn into the seamless integration of art, architecture and landscape. They will leave knowing that they themselves are part of Glenstone’s great collaborative experience.

The “Visit” tab at Glenstone.org includes an invitation for schools to request a visit. Under the “About” tab, there is a “Careers” section where university students can learn about becoming part of Glenstone’s Emerging Professionals Program and other career opportunities at Glenstone. Admission to the museum is always free but does require tickets, which are available through the website by clicking “Schedule a Visit” in the upper right corner. (Visitors must be at least 12 years old.) On the first of each month, tickets become available for visits two months ahead. For instance, on May 1, tickets will be available for visits in July.