A Peek Inside Hutzler’s
A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.
In my nearly 17 years working at the JMM, one of the most beloved exhibits I can recall is Enterprising Emporiums: Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore.
During its run, we saw record-breaking crowds of Jewish and non-Jewish visitors who fondly recalled their treasured memories of getting dressed up and taking the streetcar downtown for a day of shopping, eating and socializing with friends. As part of the programming for the exhibit, we developed a walking tour of Howard and Lexington Streets where the grand stores – Hutlzer’s, Hochschild Kohn’s and Hecht’s – once stood, led by a costumed living history character portraying Ella Gutman Hutzler, wife and daughter of department store royalty. But until a few weeks ago, I never had the opportunity to go inside to see what remained of these fabled stores.
As part of its mission to commission site-specific work within unusual places, Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum recently opened an exhibit inside Hutzler’s. For this project, the museum commissioned artist Michael Jones McKean who created The Ground, a huge installation that takes up much of the former department store’s ground level just inside its Howard Street entrance.
The exhibit takes inspiration from Hutzler’s history through tableaux that mimic department store displays with unusual twists.
Today, the building houses a vast internet network and McKean’s work also takes the building’s current use into account through environmental displays that connect past, present and future.
Sadly, with the exception of columns that reached from floor to ceiling, it was difficult to imagine Hutzler’s heyday from the vast open space but The Contemporary’s exhibit provides a welcome opportunity for visitors to reconnect with our city’s rich heritage.