Virtual programs keep Museum and community connected during closure

When the Museum closed its doors in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff knew they’d need to get creative to stay connected to the community. Over the past few months, staffers have been hard at work transitioning some in-person offerings to virtual programs.

Here’s a look at a few upcoming virtual programs for summer 2020.

Virtual programs

Of the three virtual programs slated for this summer, two are access programs that were originally offered in person. The Museum began piloting Low Sensory Sundays and Museum in Mind in 2019. Museum Educator Chelsea Macias says the programs arose from ongoing discussions about how to make the Museum more accessible to members of the community.

Macias says one of the biggest challenges transitioning these programs to virtual is that staff must learn new digital tools, such as Zoom, as well as teach participants to use them.

On the other hand, going virtual helps the Museum stay connected to the community and provides a safe way to bring the Museum into the home.

Low Sensory kit with instructions and materials

A physical Low Sensory Sunday kit comes with instructions and materials for an activity.

Low Sensory Sunday

The first virtual program for summer is Low Sensory Sunday on July 26. Low Sensory Sundays are designed for children ages 12 and younger with autism spectrum and other sensory-processing disorders.

The in-person program provided a dedicated morning for kids and their families in the Family Interactive Gallery (FIG). Children could participate in low-sensory activities, and tools such as noise-canceling headphones and sensory maps were available.

Now, the program is all about how to best serve families remotely.

That means creating an activity kit and a pre-recorded story time with interactive prompts rather than a live Zoom book reading, for instance.

“It’s not always easy to keep little ones focused on a screen,” Macias admits. “This change offers more freedom and flexibility for families.”

July’s program will feature the book Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul. In addition to the story time, the virtual program includes a digital low-sensory kit and a limited number of physical kits. The physical kit includes a resource guide and materials for a low-sensory craft. It is available for pickup at the Museum.

Kaileigh Hubbard, Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) Curriculum Specialist, develops the low-sensory activity for the kits. Each activity kit aligns with the book reading. To do this, Hubbard reads the book multiple times to get a sense of the lessons and content.

For Allie All Along, Hubbard describes the activity as a “sensory tube.”

“It’s a multisensory activity,” Hubbard explains. “It’s about sight, sound, and touch.”

While Hubbard says the transition to a virtual program involves more activity development, she enjoys reaching community members in their homes. She says pre-recording the story time offers more flexibility for parents and allows kids to work at their own pace.

Museum in Mind

Painting of two jugs on the floor

This work is one of three featured in August’s Museum in Mind. Norman Lundin; “Studio Floor: Two Jugs,” 1981; charcoal, pastel, dry pigment on paper; 37 x 52 in. Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group

Next up is virtual Museum in Mind. The program is designed for those with early-stage memory loss or dementia and their care partners. The next virtual program via Zoom is on Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 1pm.

The one-hour program consists of a conversation-based virtual gallery tour followed by an art-making activity that can be done at home with guidance from a museum educator. To register for the paid program, click here.

Offering this program online allows the Museum to safely interact with a group that is especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The focus of each Museum in Mind changes based on the exhibitions currently on view at the Museum. The last virtual program incorporated art from Conversations Between Collections.

For August, the program will focus on three pieces that will be on display in the upcoming exhibition Anatomy of a Collection: Recent Acquisitions and Promised Gifts.

The works by artists Susan Bennerstrom, Norman Lundin, and Gwendolyn Knight all feature rooms and an illusion of light.

The first virtual program was attended by individuals as well as a group from the Silverado Memory Care Community in Bellingham in June and was well-received by participants. Moving forward, Macias says the Museum can offer private versions of the program to interested groups.

Washington’s Undiscovered Feminists with Mayumi TsutakawaMayumi Tsutakawa

On Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 6pm the Museum will offer a virtual talk by independent writer and curator Mayumi Tsutakawa. Originally scheduled for March, the event commemorates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Attendees will hear about five “women warriors” in the arts and journalism from the past century.

Tsutakawa will highlight pioneering photographer Imogen Cunningham, Black American jazz musician Ruby Bishop, Chinese American artist Priscilla Chong Jue, Leftist journalist Anna Louise Strong, and Native American linguist Vi Hilbert.

Above all, she will explore how these women inspired others and changed our state and our society.

In addition to the talk via Zoom, there will also be a Q&A session with the audience.

The talk is part of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau program.

For more information about these virtual programs and to register, visit the Museum’s event calendar here. We look forward to welcoming you back in person once our doors re-open!