Rebecca Alban Hoffberger

 
As a leader in the arts, a philanthropist, an educator and a tireless advocate for the betterment of communities in Maryland and around the world, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger exemplifies vision and creativity in every aspect of her life.

Ms. Hoffberger is both founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum, America's official national museum for self-taught artists. She conceived the museum as a treasure house for the public exploration of a wide-range of intuitive and artistic inventions.

Hailed as an innovative museum, AVAM houses much more than paintings, sculptures and ceramics. It is home to the spirit and power of the individual. The museum celebrates creativity, uniqueness, self-expression, vision and compassion for differences. AVAM is alive with ideas, action and thought. It is not a holding place for inanimate objects but a catalyst for social justice and change.

Since the age of 16 when she left the United States to study with famed mime Marcel Marceau, Ms. Hoffberger has been involved in creative projects, culminating in the vision and dream of an art museum that features the work of self-trained artists from across the nation. While serving as director of development and public relations for Sinai Hospital's People Encouraging People, a program that helped psychiatric patients return to the community, the idea for AVAM was sparked.

"I was so impressed with their imagination. I looked at their strengths, not their illness," she recalled in an interview with American Style in June 2005.

Ms. Hoffberger spent 10 years planning the museum's development. The museum would display "outsider art," which in the American Style article was defined as the work of untrained artists who often have unconventional visions of art. American Visionary Art Museum opened in November 1995 near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Today, the museum is known internationally and welcomes 65,000 visitors a year.

Filled with art created out of such items as toothpicks, wire, bottle caps, seashells and beads, to name a few, the museum displays the imagination of individuals such as prisoners, psychiatric patients, recovering addicts, a tenant farmer, a former biker-gang member and a Holocaust survivor.

Her own words at the opening of the museum reflect her philosophy that has such a positive impact on those whose lives she touches:

It is our hope that you will be inspired to become more open, more sure-footed in your own life's unique possibilities, while being ever more sensitized to the bounty and lessons afforded to us by (our surroundings) to help us on our way.

Ms. Hoffberger has been a vital part of many organizations, and her varied interests contribute to her being a modern "Renaissance" woman. She has served as vice president of Essentia Research Associates, a project for the study of nontraditional medicine in Mexico. As a staff consultant for the Management Fund, Inc., she developed and implemented a program to establish emergency medical climes in Nigeria. She has been active with Associated Jewish Charities of Baltimore, serving as their vice president of education in the Women's Department and on the board of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. She has also served as a member of the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce and as the director of development for the New City Ballet Company in Baltimore.

In recognition of her leadership, she has been the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors which include Maryland's Top 100 Women; Sarah's Circle Award from College of Notre Dame of Maryland; and the Baltimore Urban League's Award for Outstanding Involvement and Support of Equal Opportunity. She was honored by the Maryland Women's History Project for her outstanding work in the arts and received an honorary doctorate from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Biography courtesy of the Maryland Commission for Women, 2006.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2006