The Academy Art Museum in Easton is providing various forms of art engagement while it is temporarily closed 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, as well as innovative programming to involve people of all ages. AAM Director Ben Simons states, “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.”
Adult projects include on-line tutorials; weekly creative contests on the Museum’s social media channels, the Museum’s “Out of the Vault” series which spotlights works of art from its permanent collection; and an Instagram interactive 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 artworks with common household items based on an inspirational painting, sculpture, or photograph 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.
The Museum’s “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 presently working on. The conversations serve both as a celebration and a record of their work and insights at this historic moment. The Museum is also offering short information videos by its adult class instructors on techniques, as well as previews of some of the classes to be offered once the Museum reopens.
A new offering this month called “Portfolio Reviews” is being well received by the artist community. Curator Mehves Lelic has developed these free reviews to network with artists who may live outside of Easton and engage them in the Museum’s programming. She comments, “Being an artist can be a solitary process, and sometimes opportunities for interaction are limited. 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.”
The Academy Art Museum’s Portfolio Reviews involve 20 to 30-minute conversations on Zoom with AAM instructors and can involve individual pieces or a body of the artist’s work. The feedback is given on both 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.
Lelic adds, “We are hoping to inspire artists in their work and to see where the work is going. 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. 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 that she used in her classes. Cassidy adds that the process is a positive experience for artists of all levels and experience. She states, “It’s all about learning where people are in their journey with art and suggesting resources and helpful tips. 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, comments, “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 Museum is showing how committed it is to the art community.”
Visit academyartmuseum.org to participate in any of the Museum’s virtual or online offerings.
As the premier art museum on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the Academy Art Museum presents high-quality exhibitions and a full range of art classes for visitors of all ages. Past exhibitions have featured artists such as James Turrell, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Pat Steir, and Richard Diebenkorn. The Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The permanent collection focuses on works on paper by American and European artists from four centuries. Arts educational programs range from life drawing lessons to digital art instruction and include lunchtime and cocktail hour concerts, lectures, and special art events, as well as a Fall Craft Show. The Museum also provides arts education to public and private school children from the region.
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