EASTON — The Academy Art Museum is providing various forms of art engagement while it is closed temporarily due to COVID-19.
As individuals and families deal with the isolation of social distancing, the museum’s development, curatorial and education departments have joined forces to create “Art at Home” weekly emails that feature multiple ways to engage the community and innovative programming to involve people of all ages.
“I’m very proud of the museum staff for the extensive outreach and programming they have developed in a short time in response to this crisis,” museum director Ben Simons said.
Adult projects include online tutorials; weekly creative contests on the museum’s social media channels; the “Out of the Vault” series, which spotlights works of art from the museum’s permanent collection; and an Instagram Q&A program called #askAAM that allows people to post questions on the museum’s Instagram story to be answered by one of the museum’s staff.
The museum’s “Art Comes Alive” program guides people in recreating their own artwork with common household items based on an inspirational painting, sculpture or photo in the museum’s permanent collection. Participants use a smartphone camera or a digital camera to take a photo of the original work and their completed recreation, and the museum posts up to five entries each week on its website.
“Virtual Studio: Conversations with Artists” is a new outreach effort that highlights how artists are rising to the challenge of a global pandemic, conceptually and practically. Through written and audiovisual dialogue, participating artists are asked to describe what form their creative practice has taken under quarantine and what they are working on now. The conversations serve as a celebration and a record of their work and insights at this historic moment.
The museum also is offering short, informational videos by its adult class instructors on techniques and previews of some of the classes to be offered once the facility reopens.
A new offering called “Portfolio Reviews” has been well received by the artist community. Curator Mehves Lelic has developed these free reviews to network with artists who may live outside Easton and engage them in the museum’s programming.
“Being an artist can be a solitary process, and sometimes opportunities for interaction are limited,” Lelic said. “For residents in other counties, distance can prohibit that sharing, as well. At the same time, face-to-face reviews can be intimidating for showing something as personal as your artwork.
“The virtual platform offers the perfect alternative for the Portfolio Review and is appropriate for both nationally celebrated artists and local artists.”
Portfolio Reviews involve 20- to 30-minute conversations on Zoom with museum instructors and can involve individual pieces or a body of the artist’s work. The feedback is given on the content of the artwork and the artist’s next steps for their work. This may involve connecting artists to art shows or galleries where they can sell their work.
“We are hoping to inspire artists in their work and to see where the work is going,” Lelic said. “It isn’t our intention to alter the artist’s intent but rather to help them look at what’s going on in the field to increase engagement.”
Self-taught artist David Tull, who paints in acrylics on a variety of surfaces, talked about his experience.
“The interview I had concerning my portfolio was very insightful and helpful as an artist, offering me an opportunity to visualize beyond my closed quarters of square formats,” he said. “The recommendations will aid me in future projects and decisions.”
After teaching art for 18 years, AAM instructor, education consultant and artist Katie Cassidy finds the critique process to be familiar to what she used in her classes. She said the process is a positive experience for artists of all levels and experience.
“It’s all about learning where people are in their journey with art and suggesting resources and helpful tips,” Cassidy said. “Everyone needs feedback and wants to improve their art. We help them discover what makes it interesting to others.”
Artist Sue Bredekamp of Choptank, who took her first art classes at the museum years ago, said: “I had not painted in a couple of years, so with the quarantine, I started painting again. The timing couldn’t have been better for the Portfolio Review, and it has greatly benefited my art.
“The review was very encouraging and reinforcing for me as I am getting back into my painting. Katie’s instruction and helpful tips also really improved my paintings. Art is therapeutic and so essential right now to our lives with all that is going on. By offering these Portfolio Reviews, the mMuseum is showing how committed it is to the art community.”
Visit www.academyart museum.org to participate in any of the museum’s virtual or online offerings.