These Museums Are Connecting People With Art in the Pandemic

You can still view some of the world's most famous artworks from your home. 

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The Whitney Museum of American Art

Ben Gancsos ©2016

The COVID-19 crisis has forced many of us to spend our days in the confines of our homes, missing out on beloved activities. When we’re not juggling working and homeschooling and caring for loved ones, we often need to occupy ourselves with something uplifting. Even though museums have had to shutter their doors, many have made their artworks and exhibitions available for online viewing. Below, Columbia Business School alumni in the art world weigh in on why art is more important now than ever before.

The Frick Collection

Anna Boatwright ’19, head of business strategy and development at the Frick, says, “There is an urgency to art every day, but the need to connect with something larger than ourselves becomes especially strong at times like this. I am excited about the ways my colleagues at the Frick and throughout the industry are using this unexpected moment to re-imagine how we bring art to audiences and offer our best resources to the public.”

Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834–1917), The Rehearsal

Michael Bodycomb

If you miss your Degas and Vermeer, the Frick has you covered. You can still wander the historic halls of the Frick with the museum’s virtual tour offerings and online collection. You can also explore the digital archives containing more than 20,000 resources and even watch educational videos to broaden your art history knowledge. And, if you prefer your oil paintings on the rocks, the Frick is offering Cocktails With a Curator every Friday at 5:00 p.m., when you're invited to sip your drink of choice while you watch one of the museum’s curators discuss a work of art, cocktail in hand.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Matt Quam ’15, deputy chief development officer, says: “Museums, and nonprofit organizations overall, need to increase engagement and communication to their constituencies in times like this. Staying connected is essential and we have the virtual tools to do that very well. Art is a profound source of comfort. Everyone is looking for that right now.”

The Temple of Dendur, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met recently announced a large selection of online content and social media initiatives that offer ways for audiences to access and enjoy its collection, programs, and educational resources while the Museum is temporarily closed. The newly launched #MetAnywhere campaign showcases content from across the museum's deep digital reserves. Explore 360-degree views of iconic spaces, behind-the-scenes videos, and dynamic explorations of exhibitions. The Met will also continue to share weekly favorites like #TuesdayTrivia and #MetSketch on its social channels, while introducing new ways to feature unique stories from the museum's followers and for curators to share their thoughts and expertise from home.

Musée de l’Elysée

Tatyana Franck ’16, director, says: “It is true that our museum is closed as are many, if not all, others around the planet. But bringing chill-out moments and knowledge into everyone’s home during these rough times is part of our mission and reflects our passion to share our love for images with the largest amount of people possible.”

Musée de l'Elysée, Nuit des images 2019

© Gregory Collavini

Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Musée de l’Elysée is offering special virtual content around its current exhibition, René Burri, the Explosion of Sight, featuring the work of the Swiss photographer. Subscribe to the museum’s newsletter and follow along on Facebook and Instagram to make sure not to miss any installments.

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Brianna Lowndes ’19, chief marketing officer, says: “It is our hope, always, but especially in this truly challenging time, that our digital platforms can be a place for meaningful connection. That could be something as small as a distraction in the middle of your day or the opportunity to learn something new. It could mean seeing again an artwork you've always loved and hearing directly from the artist who made it. Or perhaps, that might mean an activity you can do at home with your family. I’ve needed all three myself in the last week and was reminded of the power of art and the hope and creativity it can inspire.”

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Ben Gancsos ©2016

While enjoying the outdoor balconies and architecture of the Whitney is currently off limits, you can still explore the museum’s permanent collection online. The Whitney’s website offers a massive array of virtual resources, allowing users to do everything from exploring more than 25,000 works of art to viewing the exhibitions with a paired audio guide and video extras. The museum even offers video interviews with artists as well as teaching resources to learn about art from home.

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Sarah Barack ’09, head of conservation, says: “Although we conservators typically work directly with collections in person, accessing collections on our website helps maintain our connection to the exhibitions. I am also setting up a clay working table at home, in order to keep my hand skills active.”

Willi Smith community archive site

The Cooper Hewitt has an array of online offerings—from a community archive on pioneering designer Willi Smith to K-12 resources for distance learning—and aims to foster connections, stimulate creativity, and empower people through design, even virtually. Explore the Willi Smith Community Archive, which launched on March 13 in conjunction with the Willi Smith: Street Couture exhibition, to honor the life and innovations of pioneering American designer Willi Smith. Powered by Cargo, the archive will collect and share anecdotes, personal photographs, ephemera, and garments to document Smith’s contributions to fashion, art, design, and performance.

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