September 1, 2021
New Jersey, Maryland, Puerto Rico, Vermont: Virtual Art Exhibitions
Multiple state arts agencies (SAAs) are offering virtual arts exhibitions to increase visibility for artists and expand public access to their works. While some SAAs have conducted virtual exhibitions in the past, this approach took on new significance during the COVID-19 pandemic, when physical access to exhibition venues was restricted. SAAs are finding virtual exhibitions to be a useful way to showcase a greater diversity of artists and artistic perspectives. Many of these exhibitions have featured artists of color and explored multiple aspects of identity and human experience. SAAs use a variety of technology tools and curatorial lenses for these services. Some exhibitions are purely virtual, others offer a blend of in-person and on-line approaches. Below are some noteworthy examples from New Jersey, Maryland, Puerto Rico and Vermont.
The Newark Museum of Art (NMA) in partnership with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, organized this year’s New Jersey Arts Annual, an exhibition series that, since 1967, has been hosted by a different major New Jersey museum each year to highlight the state’s visual artists. This year, NMA presented a new exhibit known as 2021 New Jersey Arts Annual: ReVision and Respond showcasing 50 artworks selected from more than 1,800 submissions by 485 artists across New Jersey. Artists used a range of artistic practices including photography, painting, sculptures and textiles to express themes of isolation, loss, identity and social injustices, reflecting on how the pandemic, economic distress, and racial reckonings have influenced them. NMA is providing an option for visitors to embark on a 360° tour of the exhibition online. Virtual tour videos and a series of short videos by artists showcasing their work can be accessed on NMA’s YouTube and Facebook pages. In addition, the museum created a digital interactive element that allows visitors access to scan the QR code of each artwork during the show. Online and in-person visitors can select an emoji that reflects their response to the pieces. To expand language accessibility for a wider audience, NMA is offering labels in English and Spanish. For more information about the exhibit, contact New Jersey State Council on the Arts Director of Artist Services Danielle Bursk.
As the pandemic restricted in-person gatherings earlier this year, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) pivoted to an online platform to showcase local artists and their works. The online exhibition featured 50 selected artists—including visual arts, literature, performance and multimedia—from 13 counties across Maryland. The exhibition, titled Identity, explored how self-perceptions evolve over time and can include cultural identity, social identity, gender identity, racial identity and the intersection of multiple identities. Artworks selected for the exhibit featured many different facets of human experience. The exhibit featured stories and statements from all of the artists, who represented many different creative disciplines and walks of life, including artists with disabilities; Black, Indigenous and/or people of color; women; and gender nonconforming artists. MSAC chose a 3-D virtual exhibition platform called Kunstmatrix to present the exhibition. The tour begins with a video introduction from MSAC, then audiences can view the exhibition in list form or by navigating through a virtual gallery “room.” MSAC is currently hosting a year-long online exhibition series called the Maryland Regional Virtual Exhibition featuring multidisciplinary artists from all five different regions of Maryland. For more information, contact MSAC Special Projects and Grants Associate Rosa Chang.
The Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP), the state arts agency of Puerto Rico, works to research, preserve, promote and disseminate Puerto Rican culture. Since its inception in 1955, ICP through its National Collection has acquired more than 40,000 artifacts of significant cultural value, ranging from the 16th century to the present time. Puerto Rico’s resurgence from the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane María in 2017 and ICP’s lack of permanent display space for most of its artwork paved the way for an innovative initiative to expand its digital archive. Google Arts & Culture (in collaboration with ICP), Broadway artist Lin-Manuel Miranda, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, Museo de Arte de Ponce and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico joined forces to digitize their collections to make Puerto Rico’s art accessible beyond the island. The hyperdetailed resolution of the Google Arts & Culture image portfolio offers virtual tourists the ability to explore the images down to brushstroke level while helping cultural organizations to preserve the works in their current form for future generations. The digital archive features an ever-expanding carousel of virtual exhibitions that aims to shine a spotlight on the hidden art treasures of Puerto Rico in hopes of drawing more in-person visitors to the island. Another timeless digital repository is ICP’s Archivo Virtual, a platform dedicated to sharing publications and recording catalogues produced since the 1950s, including the academic magazine Revista ICP. This platform also served as support for art professionals since the beginning of the pandemic, filtering hundreds of open calls, emergency financial assistance and general aid. The sites have received countless views throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, contact ICP Executive Director Carlos R. Ruíz-Cortés.
As part of advancing its mission, the Vermont Arts Council works to expand access to the arts for Vermonters. To celebrate Vermont’s diverse arts landscape and creative identity, in January 2019 the Council launched an exhibit and interview series called I am a Vermont Artist. The work documents how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability or age. To honor the featured artists and extend the exhibit during the pandemic, the Council compiled the series into a multimedia online exhibit and panel discussion called I AM… 2021. This first all-virtual exhibit presented the work of 18 Vermont artists from diverse backgrounds in the Council’s new online gallery from February 16 through April 30. To promote public dialogue, the series of events included three online artist talks: Meet the Artists, a convening for the audiences to directly engage with the artists; Behind Creation: Discussing the Creative Process, a discussion with the featured artists about their creative process; and The Business of Creativity: Getting Our Work into the World, where featured artists discussed how they bring business and strategy to their creativity. The exhibit was cocurated by artist Shanta Lee Gander, who was featured in the original interview series in 2019. For more information, contact Vermont Arts Council Content Manager Desmond Peeples.
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
State to State
- New Jersey, Maryland, Puerto Rico, Vermont: Virtual Art Exhibitions
- Colorado: Community Revitalization Grant
The Research Digest
Announcements and Resources
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