Normally in March, we enjoy a bloom of arts activity across all media—performances, visual art, movies, you name it. As the arts ramp up in springtime, busy cultural summers begin to unfold. The cultural season kicks off with the start of summer art fairs, graduation exhibits for MFA and BFA students, an influx of new theater on Broadway, film festivals and concert venue programming for summer events.
This year is different.
While the world grapples with containing Coronavirus (COVID-19) the way we typically participate in the arts is changing. In-person gatherings are no longer possible this season.
However, we can continue to engage culturally and artistically while we weather important social distancing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
One of the reasons we love being engaged in what is happening in the arts and culture world is the social aspect of participating and creating a cultural community. And all of that is still possible. You can still share information with your friends, feed your brain and your soul with the arts, compare and discuss ideas. The benefit of having art in your life does not have to disappear this season. It just might look different. You can continue to make cultural participation an event with video chats and updates with your friends and family.
Here are just a few different ways you can be a cultural and artistic participant from your couch while you are sheltering-in-place.
Visit museums from all over the world from home
Ironically while traveling because of Coronavirus is out of the question, you can become a virtual globetrotter and see exhibits, arts, and learning materials from over 1,200 thousand museums around the world with Google Arts and Culture. Have you ever wanted to visit the Hammer Museum in L.A? Or lean and walk through the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam? How about visiting the National Museum of Indonesia?
If you have ever bemoaned the crowd around a painting or a barrier in front of a work of art, celebrate the ability to zoom in one artwork and see more deeply than you would be able to in-person. Some works, like the Ghent Altarpiece in Belgium, provide an interpretive text with an exploratory zoom capability so you can get into the details of a work.
In addition to digitizing over a thousand museums, the Google Arts and Culture initiative allows you to virtually walk historic sites and “choose your own adventure” for how you explore and navigate the site. For example, forget filtering art by time period or movement. You can search by color and be connected to works from all over the world and from all time periods.
Likewise, many museums outside of the Google Arts and Culture initiative have their collections and exhibitions online for you as well. Some museums in the face of Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures are stepping up their game to create ongoing virtual content for their visitors. MCA Denver is doing a push over Instagram to engage viewers with different prompts and themes for each day of the week. Keep tabs on the website of your favorite museums to see virtual programming unfold.
Don’t know where to start? Check out this list of the top ten museums to explore online.
Embrace technology for virtual gallery exhibitions & art experiences
Even though we are all taking up social distancing, you don’t need to be removed from what’s going on now in the art world. For example, even though Art Basel in Hong Kong is canceled, you can still live stream gallery visits and artist talks.
Another good way to get your cultural fix and to support artists at the same time is to participate in digital MFA and BFA thesis shows. While you can follow individual art school websites to see digital thesis shows pop up, you can also follow @socialdistancegallery to see BFA and MFA exhibitions.
You can also find a wide variety of arts-based podcasts or videos online.
Whether you want to learn how to make art, walk through famous museums, or get a lesson in art from a nun (yes really!), there is someone online for you. There are endless art video offerings on YouTube and arts and culture podcasts as well.
Challenge yourself to discover new music, movies and art
Read up on what events have been canceled and make it a point to explore these different cultural outlets from your couch. Movie debut canceled? Pop popcorn, pay to watch from home, write a review or call a friend to distance-watch with you.
Use this as an opportunity or challenge to scope out what was supposed to be happening around us all over the world to check out the music, movies, art, that you wouldn’t normally follow or know about.
Have you listened to the Hamilton soundtrack a million times but never got the chance to see if in person? Right now, all Broadway musicals are free and streamable with a free trial of Broadway HD.
Get creative and build community
While you may already be used to some level of social distancing as an artist, the mandated time away can be used to dive deeper into a project or unexplored idea. You can also use this time to break from your normal routines and experiment with new methods of working.
If you are looking for ways to shake things up and get your ideas moving, you can participate in Artwork Archive’s challenge this month.
Prompts can take the pressure of you to produce creatively. Try giving yourself both creative constraints and total freedom and see what you produce! Try to be creative in a different way or through a different medium.
You can also use this time to discover working artists and find styles or mediums that you like to draw inspiration from. Looking at another artist’s technique or subject matter can help get you thinking about how you use technique, materials, or subjects in your own work.
Take advantage or temporarily free learning resources
As this is a global crisis take the Coronavirus as a prompt and opportunity to expand your worldview. Order books from the library seek out material that you have not experienced before. Look at lists of books for people like you. Are you an artist? There is a booklist for you.
Do you have a pile-up of magazines that you never got a chance to read or half-finished books? Take the time to dive back in!
While your local library may be closed, there are all sorts of ways you can continue to learn and read.
JSTOR, an online library of books, journals, and primary source materials, expanded free access last week in response to COVID-19. Audible is providing free access to their audiobooks for teens and children and a 30-day trial for adults to listen to their library of stories. Have you always wanted to learn more about Roman Architecture? How about design your own game? Perhaps you want to sharpen your writing skills? You can attend dozens of free courses from Ivy League schools on Class Central. What better time to get around to learning the thing—whether it is art history, design, or philosophy—than when you are stuck inside without any of your normal routines.
Stay connected through art
You can still share information with your friends and family and feed your brain and your soul with the arts. Make cultural participation a special event with video chats and by including other people. Even though times are strange, you can still share and contribute to resources that will help artists and the arts.
This season’s arts and cultural opportunities aren’t going away, they just might look different.
Of course, we can also use this moment to deepen our bonds with those closer to home and reconnect with friends and family.
Wherever you are in the world right now, know that we are together in these unprecedented and strange times. While things are rapidly changing and we are all adapting to a new normal, we can make good use of this forced pause.
One of the reasons we love being engaged in the arts and culture world is the power that arts have on creating a cultural community—and all of that is still possible during this time.
Participate online by following hashtags
This is a stressful time. Research has shown that viewing art can reduce stress and anxiety and boost motivation and moods.
Some museums in the face of Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures are stepping up their game to create ongoing virtual content for their visitors. The Museum of the City of New York created the hashtag #MuseumMomentofZen on Twitter and Instagram to share imagery and artworks online.
Since starting the hashtag, over 75 museums have engaged and are sharing impressive artworks, as well as architectural and archival images. Natural history, science and nature museums, like the Field Museum in Chicago, are also using the hashtag as well.
If you have a favorite museum, chances are they are working to develop some type of online engagement. Keep tabs on the website or social media of your favorite museums to see virtual programming unfold and to participate.
Artwork Archive rolled out #artistsunitechallenge over instagram. Each day we prompt viewers and artists to get creative and to engage each other with our daily challenges. We hope to help you make your social media feed one of hope, compassion, and connectedness at this time, rather than fear and anxiety.
Support and advocate for the arts from home
Especially in these difficult times, the arts will continue to lift our spirits and bring solidarity and humanity to our struggling communities. If you are so inclined, you can support artists and the arts during the current pandemic with some of these ideas.
For our American readers, you can help shape the future of the arts as the United States government works to shape a COVID-19 relief bill.
Congress is working to pass an economic relief package in response to COVID-19. We can work together to ensure that museums are included and protected in that relief package. The American Alliance of Museums calculated that museums are losing at least $33 million a day due to COVID-19. Museums will be in desperate need of significant federal support.
Museum associations are asking Congressional leaders for $4 billion in relief funding and economic stimulus for museums. Join their effort by letting your legislators know that you care about protecting the arts. You can use the AAM’s (American Association of Museum’s) online action center to find your state and federal legislator information, and send a message to Congress with a few clicks.