MCB Real Estate this week announced a new position with a familiar face: Jenenne Whitfield, the former director of the American Visionary Art Museum, was named as the Director of Experience of Harborplace.

The role will “infuse Harborplace with innovative and inclusive cultural programming,” according to a press release. Whitfield’s noteworthy history with art made her an ideal fit.

Whitfield was the president and CEO of Detroit’s acclaimed Heidelberg Project, an outdoor visionary art space, for nearly three decades before becoming the second-ever head of AVAM, replacing its founder Rebecca Hoffberger, in September 2022. Since parting ways with the museum in September of last year, Whitfield has been a member of Mayor Brandon Scott’s Arts & Culture Advisory Committee, recently sitting as one of the judges that chose five artists to paint portraits of past mayors for City Hall.

“Her proven background of fostering creativity and inclusivity aligns perfectly with our vision for Harborplace,” MCB managing partner P. David Bramble wrote in a statement about Whitman’s new position, adding “Harborplace has always been the City’s gathering place and our commitment through this process is to return Harborplace to that glory in a modern 21st century way.”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Whitfield spoke with The Banner about what she sees for the future of Harborplace, the importance of women in the arts community, and why she decided to stay in Baltimore in the first place.

Could you give us more details about what exactly the position will entail?

This was conceived by David and his team wanting to create energy and excitement at the Harbor. This is really going to be about celebrating Baltimore first and foremost. It’s going to be about all of its wonderful talent as far as artists are concerned, the culture of the city and everything that makes Baltimore what it is and what caused me to stay here. So just think art activation, cultural experiences and a really good use of that amazing space on the Harbor.

What have you learned from Baltimore during your time here?

Baltimore is on the cusp of something very dynamic and you have to have vision to see that. There’s a popping arts community here. There’s also a strong camaraderie amongst the people that live here. It’s such a rich, soulful and beautiful city. There’s a lot of creative energy, and you know art and culture is key when you talk about development.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Is it your job to make Harborplace appeal to a specific audience?

What’s most important is the people of Baltimore. This is going to appeal to everybody, but our focus is on the citizens of Baltimore first. Those that live throughout the metropolitan area and tourists all play a part, but what I think is very important to promote is that we’re celebrating the rich talent in this city. I’ve often said that no matter what city you’re living in, it’s important to learn how to put your arms around your own assets.

Do you have any specific goals that you hope to accomplish with this role?

One of the mains goals that I have is that I really want to help make the city of Baltimore an East Coast destination. In other words, when you think about what’s happening on the East Coast, you’ll immediately be thinking Baltimore.

How did working at AVAM and the mayor’s arts council help prepare you for this position?

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

AVAM taught me that it is important to know what you want and I’m going to leave that at that.

Working with the mayor’s office was critical because it kept me engaged. Tonya Miller [Hall, senior advisor of Scott’s Office of Arts & Culture], along with several women in the arts community, supported and rallied around me to make sure that I stayed involved and that was one of the reasons why I stayed [in Baltimore]. My husband is still in Detroit but he loves it here, too, so he commutes back and forth. So the mayor’s office and being apart of that process is what helped me prepare to do this work, because I learned the community and I’m still learning the community.

I like that you specifically mention women in the arts community rallying around you.

When talking about all of the people of Baltimore, women hold a special place and I’m saying this for a reason. They have taught others, they have held it down, they are active and they are doing the damn thing. I’ve never seen so much vibrancy among all of the generations. Each one is teaching one. We’ve got young, mid-career and older generations all integrated. That’s powerful and that’s why I say Baltimore’s got something really special, and if we don’t know it, by the time that I finish, we will.

Taji Burris has covered the Baltimore music scene since 2015 for outlets such as The Working Title and The 4th Quarter, and now at the Baltimore Banner.

More From The Banner