The COVID-19 outbreak is devastating the arts community locally and globally, resulting in closures of museums, galleries, concert venues, and other public spaces reliant on ticket income and a steady stream of visitors.
Yet, while social distancing guidelines are limiting our physical interactions with cultural venues, engaging with art and nature remains an important restorative tool against feelings of isolation and despair that may emerge.
While Penn’s arts and culture centers remain closed for the time being, they are still finding ways to sustain connections through online collections and programs, providing enriching and educational experiences that can be enjoyed in the safety of one’s own home.
As COVID-19 writes a new chapter in human history, the Penn Museum is bringing cultural heritage to the homes and phones of its friends and followers. Through “Penn Museum at Home,” visitors can explore history through new and archived Daily Dig videos, where experts tell the stories behind artifacts; virtual strolls through the galleries; online lectures and learning programs; and a trove of digital collections. The Museum is also connecting with local teachers to train them in using online resources for support in the spirit of the popular Unpacking the Past program.
With “Morris From Home,” the Morris Arboretum remains committed to sharing the beauty of its grounds and advancing its educational mission, even remotely. Staff members have created online instructional videos for home gardeners, weekly social-interactive activities on Instagram like #ToolTuesday and #ScavengerSaturday, blog posts, and online classes. Arboretum members are also inviting people—safely—into their backyards by sharing videos from home gardens for a series of “Field Trips.” The Arboretum has seen a significant uptick in new Instagram followers as people seek ways to enjoy nature while following stay-at-home orders.
Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
Over the past few years, the Institute of Contemporary Art has embarked on “I Is for Institute”—an exploration of ICA’s evolution via conversations, archival material, and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Many of these materials are available at ICA’s website, where visitors can also find photo galleries, videos from the current exhibitions, interviews with artists, and, most recently, the premiere of a new film project.
ICA will move online for its Open Video Call, which for 21 years has provided a platform for emerging Philadelphia-area filmmakers. Instagram users can follow ICA for a daily dose of images from ICA exhibitions and publications, along with features on staff and artists in the community. And for a little peace of mind, ICA hosts a weekly guided-meditation series called “Mindfulness at the Museum.”
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
The Annenberg Center’s mission to connect audiences with global artists resonates as vital now as ever. While rescheduling as many events as possible from the cancelled 2019-20 season, the Annenberg Center is working with artists to create videos for home audiences. The Annenberg Center @ Home blog and weekly emails highlight curated content from eclectic artists who performed at Annenberg or whose bookings were impacted by COVID-19. The Annenberg Center is also exploring ways to partner with student groups, including the Platt Performing Arts House, to provide a platform for talented students to share their gifts remotely.
As Penn looks forward to reopening our doors to the public, our arts and culture centers are still here to provide enrichment, enlightenment—and a much-needed escape. We hope to see you again when we can welcome you in safety and celebration of shared experiences.
Friends who wish to help these arts and culture centers continue sharing their offerings—now and for the future—can support their annual giving funds through the links below.