From UCSB Arts & Lectures, to the Santa Barbara Symphony, to Opera Santa Barbara, many local arts & entertainment organizations are weathering the COVID-19 crisis by bolstering their online presences and curating digital content for its audiences to enjoy during quarantine.
Now, UCSB’s Art, Design, & Architecture Museum has followed suit by bringing its exhibits to a virtual format on its website museum.ucsb.edu.
While holding online exhibitions was something the museum was already involved with prior to the pandemic, its enhancement of its website represents an effort to “more intentionally” move the museum in a digital direction as at this time, it is the only option for displaying its catalogue.
According to Acting Museum Director and Curator of Architecture and Design Silvia Perea, these online exhibitions won’t be just mere digital transfers of “Irresistible Delights,” “Hostile Terrain 94,” “Common Bonds,” and “Plans for the Future,” exhibits held in its galleries at the time COVID-19 forced the museum’s doors shut. Instead, the online versions will enhance the content in the physical installations.
“We’re not just transferring. We’re enriching those exhibitions. We’re going to progressively add new content to it,” she stated.
These additions will include one-minute videos of the exhibits’ featured artists talking about their work. Some videos are already in the museum’s archives, while others have been just recently commissioned.
The director commented that if possible, the museum always tries to hear directly from artists who are still living.
“We always try to bring his voice into the exhibition, and that way is through videos and interviews,” Ms. Perea said.
Although the museum plans on unveiling new online exhibitions at the start of next month, Ms. Perea and her colleagues are making sure that the website has just the right amount of content. Completely aware that the AD&A Museum is not the only arts organization around town upping its digital game, Ms. Perea said it has no intention giving its audience an overdose of information. Avoiding this involves curating art for the digital exhibits so they are holistically of the same high quality as the physical exhibits. The gallery installations are planned months, sometimes years in advance, so creating a virtual exhibit of similar quality in a short duration of time involves being very selective about what pieces get included.
“Our way of navigating that amount of time is to reduce the number of exhibitions online and making sure we have the same quality as our exhibitions in the physical space,” Ms. Perea said.
Because the aim behind enhancing the AD&A Museum’s website was to maintain the same level of engagement it had with the public prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the new online content also includes two contests. The first is “ADA in Space,” a competition for kids between the ages of 3 and 11 to draw what they think life on another planet would look like. According to the museum website, the 10 “most imaginative and thought-provoking” drawings will be selected by a curator and included in an online exhibition on the museum’s website. It’s deadline is 11:59 p.m. on May 15.
The second contest, “Fables in Labels,” is a writing contest for adults to pen a fictional historical account of one of the Renaissance medals in the museum’s collection. The front side of the medal features a profile image of the Roman emperor Caracalla, and the flipside has the image of two young boys sitting down beside a human skull. The submissions can range from fictitious accounts of the medal’s artist to the story behind the images emblazoned on its two sides. They can be either prose or poetry and must be a maximum of 300 words. They should be emailed to email@example.com by April 24 and submissions should include the artist’s name, email and phone number.
Along with other Renaissance medals in the museum’s catalogue, the Caracalla medal will be featured in a future AD&A Museum exhibition. The winner of “Fables in Labels” will be included in its company.
“That winner of the contest will have his fictional account featured in that exhibition,” Ms. Perea said.
The AD&A Museum’s upgraded digital exhibitions may have undergone an expedited rollout the minute its management knew on March 14 it would have to close due to COVID-19, but this increased online presence will not end when the coronavirus situation does. Even when the gallery doors are reopened and visitors can again stop by to see the exhibits, the museum will keep finding ways of making its website more visually engaging, participative, and thoroughly curated. As Ms. Perea sees it, now is the time for the museum to figure out exactly how it will improve its digital content down the road.
“This process is teaching us so much. We’re working on building a structure that allows us to build our presence online in the coming future,” she said.