The protectors of a museum are now its curators. The security team of the Baltimore Museum of Art has been responsible for selecting 25 unique works as part of an exhibit that is open from March 27 to July 10.

The “Guarding the Art” exhibit came to fruition after Amy Elias, one of the museum’s trustees, wondered what pieces of work the security guards find most meaningful as they spend more time with art than anyone else. Rob Kempton, who became part of BMA’s security team in 2016 had never been a security guard before. “Working at the BMA, being surrounded by art, was something that struck me as important,” he told a news agency. He became so invested in the world of art that he completed a degree in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University after joining the museum. “Guarding the Art” allowed him to sharpen skills he had developed in his studies and “learn real hands-on experience in the gallery,” he said. He chose two abstract paintings to include in the show: Grace Hartigan’s Interior, “The Creeks” (1957), and Alma Thomas’ Evening Glow (1972), noting the latter’s rich, opaque colors and really intense palette knife scraping.

It took the guards two years to select works, design the installation, conceptualize the catalog, and plan visitor tours. According to Asma Naeem, BMA’s chief curator, Guarding the Art is a “simple idea” but it also raises questions that challenge the status quo, such as “who is art for?” and “who gets to talk about the arts?” Giving security guards the opportunity to organize an art show is “something that every museum can do,” said Elias.