By Spencer Smith
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
With the coronavirus pandemic still at large, museums throughout Baltimore have found innovative ways to stay involved with the community.
Virtual artist studio tours have become increasingly popular in multiple museums, such as the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) on 800 Key Highway.
“Our virtual artist studio tour is where an artist broadcast live from their studio,” said Helen Yuen, director of marketing and communications at the American Visionary Art Museum. “The broadcasts are aired live and people are able to tune in and access them through our social media channels.”
The pandemic has made AVAM restructure the way it showcases art and conduct business.
The museum is now offering virtual group tours in which schools all over the country, ranging from California to New York, have attended.
Another way the visionary art museum has remained active in the community is by offering art kits to the public.
“We partnered with the Baltimore County Public Library to help distribute art kits through their network of branches,” Yuen said.
Although AVAM is not currently holding any in-person workshops, it is offering tutorials on how to make art projects at home that can be accessed through the museum’s website.
Yuen said the tutorials utilize art supplies that are easily accessible.
For example, the website has a step-by-step tutorial on how to make sock monkeys which can be made with socks, buttons, scissors and stuffing.
According to Yuen, the museum store has been a big hit with visitors. When the museum was closed, people would come to AVAM just to visit the museum store.
While they are grateful to be open to the public, keeping everyone safe is still the top priority.
“The safety and health of the visitors and staff is a paramount concern for us,” Yuen said.
Yuen said masks are required at all times in the museum. There are signs throughout the museum informing visitors to stay 6 feet apart to maintain social distance.
There are glass barriers at the front desk when you walk into the museum to limit close contact situations as well as scheduled tickets for visitors, so large crowds can never be assembled.
Yuen strongly encourages visitors to pre-purchase tickets to limit the transaction upon arrival.
Unlike AVAM, the Walters Art Museum on 600 N. Charles St. is not currently open to the public.
“The museum has been closed since November,” said Gabriella Souza, communications manager at the Walters Art Museum. “We are planning to reopen in mid-March. The gallery will be at 25 percent capacity and everyone must wear masks.”
When the museum reopens, the staff will follow the same protocols as they did when they were open in the fall.
“Most of our virtual efforts have been with our programming,” Souza said. “We are doing artist talks and workshops which can be accessed through Facebook and YouTube.”
According to the Walter’s website, 45-minute-long virtual school tours are being offered to K-12 students on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There are also hour-long virtual tours for adults and college students on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Souza said Walters is also offering a performance series called Art/Sound/Now, in which local artists make videos and stream original music inspired by collections at the museum.
At the Baltimore Museum of Art on 10 Art Museum Drive, virtual gallery walks have been made available to the public, as well as small in-person exhibitions.
“We are making a few exhibitions available by appointment in small groups that can range from one to eight people,” said Anne Brown, senior director of communications at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Some of the upcoming exhibitions include Lisa Yuskavage: Wilderness; Sharon Lockhart: Perilous Life; and Tschabalala Self: By My Self, which will all take place between March 28 and Sept. 19.
In addition to the virtual gallery walks and exhibitions, Brown also mentioned that the museum is holding artist talks via Zoom or Facebook Live.
During the artist talks, discussions are held with local artists in Baltimore. Anyone who is watching is invited to participate in the discussion and ask the artist questions.
Brown said the Baltimore Museum of Art makes sure their social media followers are always aware of upcoming events.
The coronavirus has forced the Baltimore Museum of Art to reschedule many projects and exhibits, according to Brown.
In the foreseeable future, when the Baltimore Museum of Art is permitted to do a full reopening, it plans on taking a similar approach as it did in the Fall when its capacity was at 25%.
“When we were open in the fall, there was hand sanitizer located throughout the building,” Brown said. “The cleaning crew did a lot of work in areas with frequently touched surfaces.”