The Ackland Art Museum’s first Virtual Friends and Family Sunday program, held on May 31, explored the work of Yayoi Kusama, the artist behind the Ackland’s current exhibition.
The Ackland closed "indefinitely" on March 18 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the museum has been offering virtual programs for audiences to engage with art remotely, said Director Katie Ziglar.
The Virtual Friends and Family Sunday included a live storytime, art-making and videos highlighting Kusama's life and work.
Carrie Young, the Ackland’s public programs intern, read the story "Yayoi Kusama Covered Everything in Dots and Wasn’t Sorry" by Fausto Gilberti live on Zoom for virtual visitors to tune in.
Crafts with step-by-step directions and videos highlighting Kusama’s works were posted on the museum’s website for families to enjoy at their own pace, Public Programs Coordinator Lindsey Hale said.
“We want to serve as a resource for the community at this time and also try to show off what we can of the exhibition,” she said. “While the museum doors are physically closed, our website is open.”
Other virtual programs at the Ackland include Art for Lunch discussions and Art Adventure classes.
When the museum held in-person Art Adventures, they could only accommodate up to 40 people, but online they have had four times that amount, Ziglar said.
“We’ve learned that we can reach far more people doing these things virtually, so that’s a very good reason to continue doing them,” she said. “Even when we reopen and can have programs back in the museum, we’ll probably do a virtual version as well, so that we can reach these new audiences out there who can’t necessarily come to the museum.”
Young sat in on a virtual Art Adventures lesson and said they thought it was a wonderful way to engage kids when there isn’t much else to do.
“I’m really excited to keep doing the virtual programs because I think they are really beneficial, especially to kids and their parents to have some engagement,” Young said. “I’m excited to try and figure out other ways that crafts and different activities can be put online.”
The Ackland will hold a virtual "Afrofuturist festival" called Intergalactic Soulstice the weekend of June 19. The festival will feature a mix of prerecorded and live performances, including 5P1N0K10, a hip-hop puppet show performed by artist Jeghetto, followed by a live Q&A session.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Hale said. “There’s something there that hopefully every family might be interested in. It’s very much pick and choose.”
Ziglar said the museum plans to reopen eventually, but they have not set a date or made firm reopening plans.
“We definitely expect to reopen,” she said. “We are a vital part of Chapel Hill and a major part of the community, as well. It would be terrible if we never reopened, but we’ve got to do it when it’s safe.”
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