The “Peabody Ballroom Experience” is a public humanities collaboration between the George Peabody Library and Baltimore’s ballroom community. The project aims to cultivate an exchange of knowledge between the ballroom community and Johns Hopkins by offering diverse opportunities for faculty, students, staff, and ballroom participants to come together as partners in education and interpretation. Ballroom leaders will share insights into the decades-long history of the city’s LGBTQ ball culture and discuss the forms of knowledge the art form has yielded about kinship, gender, sexuality, race, and performance.

Project components include:

  • Film screenings and roundtable discussions
  • Workshops and presentations by Hopkins library staff
  • Vogue workshops with the Peabody Dance Department
  • 15 oral histories with Baltimore’s ballroom community
  • A documentary film and printed project catalogue
  • a ball competition at the Peabody Library, where participants will interpret the library’s collections through costume and stylized performance.

Media coverage:

What is Ballroom?

“This autonomous culture that’s nearly a century old has managed to stay alive and well through the drug crisis, the HIV and AIDS crisis, and several presidential crises. It continues to stand on its own as a safe, affirming space for people when they don’t have anywhere else to go, to exist.” — Twiggy Pucci Garçon

“Ballroom” is a performance art tradition comprising gay, trans, and gender non-conforming people of color. Most participants belong to groups known as “houses.” The most conspicuous function of houses is organizing and competing in competitive balls. At these events, ethnographer Marlon Bailey argues, competitors “use performance to create an alternative discursive terrain and a kinship structure that critiques and revises dominant notions of gender, sexuality, family, and community.”

What is the Peabody Library?

The George Peabody Library, known as Baltimore’s “Cathedral of Books,” is consistently ranked amongst the most beautiful libraries in the world. The library opened its doors in 1878 and was, according to founder George Peabody, “to be well furnished in every department of knowledge and of the most approved books of the day.” The Peabody Ballroom Experience will continue this legacy by documenting and staging the unique forms of knowledge created through ballroom.

Learn more about the Library

George Peabody Library



Advisory Committee:

  • Iconic Sebastian Escada
  • Legendary Mother Marco Blahnik of the House of Manolo Blahnik
  • Londyn Smith De Richelieu (Mother Miyake Mugler)
  • Legendary Enrique St. Laurent
  • Keith Ebony Holt, Father of The House of Ebony
  • Dr. Gabrielle Dean, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Johns Hopkins
  • Paul Espinosa, Curator of the George Peabody Library
  • George Ciscle, founder, MFA in Curatorial Practice; Curator-in-Residence at MICA
  • Blair Franklin, Executive Director of YES, Youth Empowered Society Drop In Center
  • Dr. madison moore, assistant professor of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University
Mellon Foundation Logo

This project is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, under the auspices of the Sheridan Libraries.