What Makes Us Smile?

by Matt Kelley

Photos by Tedd Henn. AVAM, Preview Party for What Makes Us Smile?

How could we celebrate that, which makes us smile in this city without tipping our hat to John Waters? Considering that unlike other well known depictions of Baltimore John’s films portray us in the light that we like to see ourselves in. He always seems to find humor in the most unlikeliest of places and often with a hint of, “it’s ok if we’re all a little crazy.”


Photos by Tedd Henn
Danute Armstrong traveled all the way from New Mexico to redefine the term “Life Of The Party.” We have unconfirmed reports that right before she hit the dance floor she said, “I’m bout’ to show this party what’s up.” And that’s exactly what she did. Such was the simple brilliance of an exhibit and party centered around smiling that everyone, I mean EVERYONE had an amazing time at AVAM last weekend. This is where the world is going folks. In these times museums have to do more than curate things, they have to curate experiences. They have to foster deeper connections with their patrons. That’s what was happening at AVAM last Friday night.

AVAMs Preview Party: What Makes Us Smile?

The publishers of What Weekly aren’t in the habit of making appearances in the magazine but Justin Allen and Brooke Hall made an exception in this picture with Simpsons creator and co-curator of the ‘What Makes Us Smile’ exhibit, Matt Groening.

When asked how he felt about Baltimore and the AVAM Matt had this to say. “Baltimore is amazing. Historically it is amazing, you can’t go wrong with Edgar Allan Poe and H.L. Mencken I think it’s a beautiful city and for me as a visitor this (The AVAM) is the center of Baltimore, and it’s not as violent as the wire depicts.”

American Visionary Art Museum founder and co-curator of the ‘Smile’ exhibit Rebecca Hoffberger with cartoonist Lonnie Milsap whose website is hilarious. After visiting for a few minutes I feel compelled to buy his book, ‘My Washcloth Stinks.’ Click and smile.

Patch Adams

After successfully proving his mother’s theory that if one makes a silly face for a long enough it will freeze and you’ll be stuck looking silly for the rest of your life; Dr. Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams was happy to grace us with his presence and reveal that his secret to happiness involves living without a savings account, phone number, email, or property. Patch claims that those things only distract from the real gusto one gets for treating their patients with the very real healing power of laughter.

Jamie Coyne body painting by Jessica L. Gordon and contributing artist Anado McLalichlin set the stage for the nights impromptu clothing optional dance party.

No contest this week folks, these two fine individuals are the winners of this weeks prestigious and highly coveted, “Though We’re Certain That You Weren’t Surprised and Elated By Our Camera You Faked It For The Picture, Which Shows That You’re Team Players and That My Friends Is Indeed What I Needed To Distract From The Fact That I Misplaced Your Names But If I Remember Correctly At Least One of You Was Involved In The Kinetic Sculpture Race With Team Los Make Believers, Which Was the What Weekly Favorite,’ award. You guys worked hard, you deserve it.

When asked what made them smile, Liliana and Abigail Greenway’s response was “Your Face!” Which of course made me smile and quite possibly has the potential to cause a smile chain reaction that sweeps the planet causing good vibes, good deeds and spontaneous cuddling of epic proportions.

Artist Brian Dowdall and Alison Spiesman share the award for the nights largest and hairiest smile at the AVAM. Brian’s work has been displayed in galleries all over the world and is most often created using things such as common house paint and cardboard. Brian and his work will be visiting Baltimore again this November for ‘Bizarre Art’ at the AVAM.

Phil and Liam of Two Boots, a recently opened restaurant at Power Plant Live that specializes in gourmet Pizza’s and New Orleans Cajun Cuisine, seem to be doing well judging by that enormous gold chain. Unfortunately the other part of the outfit that you missed out on was the American flag swim shorts and gold shoes just out of frame.


Body art has become ever more visible at events in town and this was no exception. Christalene of Crystalooneys Creative Arts worked in tandem with model Ashley Hoyle to catch the attention of everyone in the room while painting this piece she calls her Blue Ferry.

Dave Troy and Nate Mook are organizers of the upcoming TEDx MidAtlantic Conference in Washington DC. This promises to be a gathering of some of the most forward minded people in the country. I encourage everyone to follow the

Dave Troy and Nate Mook are organizers of the upcoming link to learn more about TED and sign up for the conference if so inspired.

Here’s an idea of the topics they’ll be tackling.

“Humanity’s biggest challenges are also some of the most familiar. How we deal with population growth, climate change, and future energy demands depends on how we frame these questions, and too often our ability to find new, innovative solutions is limited by political and ideological biases. What if we were to look at the world anew?”

“By asking a range of talented thinkers and doers “What If?” TEDxMidAtlantic 2010 will unleash fresh, new perspectives by framing old questions differently – and by asking thoughtful, new questions. Join us in exploring this hopeful future, where difficult problems become achievable and the impossible is merely hard. What If?”

Again, we’re not in the habit of posting picture of What Weekly staff in the magazine but writer Matt Kelley scored this original piece of art by Matt Groening so we made an exception. Matt Kelley didn’t know this picture was going to by published until just now. Are we biased at What Weekly? Unabashedly so.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Rufus and Anahi Spaulding stopped by the AVAM while on their life’s mission of bringing happiness to every city they go to. Now just to be clear, this is not a passive “oh well since I am here-” mission. These guys seriously travel from city to city with the priority of making people happy.

Photo by Brooke Hall
The array of work that is ‘What Makes Us Smile?’ shows life through the eyes of the people that have brought us happiness for decades. Whether it be a dysfunctional family capable of distracting us from our own stresses at home, the discovery of a new sex act on Harford or the life long pursuit of bringing laughter to the people who need it most. One thing can be certain; smiles are contagious and so much more fun than the flu. The more you smile the greater the chance people around you will smile, the more likely it is for all of us to find happiness in our lives and if you need some inspiration to get the smiling snowball rolling I suggest you make your way over to the AVAM ASAP to get your self a healthy dose of smiles from the experts.