Phase 2 of Nevada’s reopening plan allows art museums to open today, but don’t line up at their doors just yet. Museum officials are still cautiously planning how and when to open their doors back up to the public. 

Meanwhile, administrators at all three museums say that amidst the uncertainty of the shutdown, there’s been a silver lining. They’ve all been working for years to make their institutions more accessible to a wider range of people, and some of the virtual offerings they devised during the shutdown have helped to fast-forward those goals.

A public draw-along

“The Barrick has been interested in leveling hierarchies,” said Director Alisha Kerlin. “We provide access. We build bridges. We create community.” In non-pandemic times, that means things like the Bus to the Barrick program, which aims to get every Clark County public school student in the door and talking about art.

On March 17, when Nevada’s gathering spaces were ordered closed, in-person visitor programs came to a screeching halt. By March 18, the Barrick took to Instagram, inviting the entire community to draw together. Each day since, museum staffers have posted a prompt, some specifically pandemic themed: “Draw your breakfast.” “Draw your commute.” “Draw washing hands.” “Draw yourself not touching your face.” The program is called A Drawing a Day Keeps the Pandemic Away, and hundreds of people, from kids to professional artists to the Barrick’s own employees, have drawn and posted pictures. The full collection—a touching display of fears, dreams and musings, ranging from adorable to haunting—is on the Barrick’s Issuu page.

Check @unlvmuseum on Instagram for more of the Barrick’s virtual programming, including a new comic series by Education and Programming Assistant Dan Hernandez, which answers questions like “Who is Marjorie Barrick?”, features bios of the Barrick’s staff and volunteers, and explains what they do. 

As for the Bus to the Barrick program, Kerlin said it had been going strong before the shutdown, but it’s unlikely that Clark County schools will want to book tours for the time being. So, she sent a survey to teachers, asking what kind of remote programming they’d find useful in lieu of field trips. She’s glad she asked, because the answer surprised her. “I thought maybe they’d want to have hands-on workshop projects,” she said. But 180 teachers responded within a day, and the most common request was for videos, geared to grade level, on artists who live and work in Las Vegas. Those are now in the works. 

Live from the Lilley

Vivian Zavataro, director of the Lilley Museum at UNR, said she’s been impressed with the public’s “thirst for art” during the shutdown. “How we turn to art in times of crisis, how much people have been engaging with museums and artists and music, poetry and literature, during a time of crisis.” 

For the Lilley, a dark museum has meant time to do some research on the permanent collection, and start some new programs. Zavataro started a Quarantine Poems Sessions, highlighting poets, and weekly Quarantine Interview Sessions, featuring chats with people from the local and national art communities. (I talked about Double Scoop in Episode 2.) Both series were recorded live on Instagram’s IGTV and are archived on YouTube. Zavataro said she’s received some heartwarming thank you notes from appreciative viewers. Once the museum re-opens, she’ll probably continue both series. 

The museum also released free coloring book pages and started posting artworks daily on social media with capsule explanations. To find them, search for #thelilleyfromhome. 

Going virtual meant reaching the whole state

“A lot of programs we’re bringing online are vastly expanding our audience capabilities,” said Amanda Horn, Communications Director at the Nevada Museum of Art. Normally, the museum’s monthly Educator Evenings draw around 100 local teachers. At the first-ever virtual version in May, 195 people tuned in, including teachers from Clark County and the rurals. 

The NMA has also made efforts to keep in touch during the shutdown by highlighting its video series and image database and sharing lesson plans for teachers and families. Visit the Museum From Home pages for more details. 

Making a color wheel using items found around the house is among the Nevada Museum of Art’s art-from-home lessons. Photo courtesy of the Nevada Museum of Art.

One thing Horn is looking forward to is the next Art Bite, normally a noontime talk in the galleries by an artist or expert. This one is on June 5, and it’ll be virtual. Robotics artist Kal Spelletich will speak from his studio in the Bay Area, and Horn said the remote format will allow him to show off some technologies (robotics! lasers!) that wouldn’t have been possible in the museum. 

Horn said that all of these online offerings will likely continue.

A new collaboration

At the Barrick, the staff kicked off the shutdown by brainstorming over a shared Google doc. One of the ideas on their list was “Get to know the Lilley.” That led to a new initiative called “Duet,” in which both museums post works from their collections on social media each week, side by side, along with short texts by Las Vegas arts writer DK Sole. For now, you’ll need to do a little legwork to find these posts. Search for #sistermuseumsnv on the Barrick and Lilley’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. But keep an ear out for future news. Both directors said that this project will likely evolve into some kind of more visible North/South collaboration.

Posted by Kris Vagner

Kris Vagner is Double Scoop’s Editor & Publisher.