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All of us at Art Bridges recognize the unprecedented financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to support our partners during these uncertain times, Art Bridges launched the Bridge Ahead Initiative in May 2020. This initiative commits nearly $6 million to help partner museums develop strategies to engage and connect with communities remotely while museums are closed.
Below we’ve highlighted some of the incredible work of our partners. Art Bridges continues our efforts in support of our partners through the uncertainties of reopening and continuing to engage audiences in new and inventive ways.
American Folk Art Museum
Building relationships while closed in New York City
Prior to the American Folk Art Museum’s temporary closure in March, the organization primarily offered its Community Access programs onsite. To continue meeting the interests and needs of all its visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum shifted its series, Folk Art Reflections, online.
Created for adults living with memory loss, their families and care partners, this interactive and discussion-based Zoom series brings the world of folk art to life through conversation. Offered in partnership with local non-profits, CaringKind and Connect2Culture, the series engages with a spectrum of arts offerings including an upcoming collaboration with members of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra as part of its music series.
This free event includes a virtual concert where guests experience the soothing powers of music, and an opportunity to speak to the musicians after the performance. Engaging with the additional challenges of folks living with memory challenges during the pandemic, Folk Art Reflections encourages relationship building through the transformative power of the arts.
Studio Museum in Harlem
multi-sensory digital programming
Finding new ways to connect in New York City
Facilitated by artists, educators and experts, Studio Lab presents immersive, multi-session courses that use the arts and cultural studies as jumping off points for cross-disciplinary explorations. In October, the Studio Museum in Harlem partnered with Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute to present “Studio Lab: shades of blues“, exploring the intersections between the arts and sciences.
Over the course of the two-part program, including a panel discussion and workshop, participants unpacked the power, influence, and lasting effects of the color blue. This multi-sensory exploration encompassed experiencing the blues in relation to mental health, seeing the blues as a hue activated within the visual arts, and hearing the blues as a genre that gives voice to American and World culture.
Offered through the Museum’s YouTube channel and website, the program explored the sensory emotions associated with the term, and encouraged participants to understand the healing effect of the blues, both a timely and timeless practice.
Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute
Continuing to engage and inform audiences while closed in Utica, New York
In February 2020, the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute opened the centennial exhibition Celebrating Suffrage: Women Artists from the Collection that examines how American women created their place and practices within the art community over the centuries.
This centenary presented the opportunity to not only celebrate women’s contributions to the expression of the visual arts, but also critically explore the limits of the Nineteenth Amendment through the Museum’s public programming.
With support from the Bridge Ahead Initiative, one such offering, Race and Reform in the Urban North during the Early Progressive Era of the Twentieth Century, examined the current struggles over the unresolved histories of racism and civil rights and the ways their unresolved histories continue to affect the health of African Americans and western democracy.
In addition to this lecture that unpacked some of the connections amongst gender, race and citizenship, the Institute also offered six additional conversations that considered women’s artistic practice and output which can be viewed on YouTube.
Weatherspoon Art Museum
Connecting with kids and families remotely in Greensboro, North Carolina
While camp and usual summer activities had to be postponed for many, the Weatherspoon Art Museum embraced the possibilities of creating at home with its #WAMSummerFun educational projects.
Inspired by various works in the Museum’s collection, each activity encouraged folks from grades K-12 to explore writing and art-making prompts. From May – August, the Weatherspoon added new projects including the Nick Cave-inspired, Telling Powerful Stories with Found Objects which encouraged critical thinking about the meaning and creation behind the artist’s Soundsuits.
Offering age-appropriate activities, each project PDF asked learners to practice close looking, imaginative writing, and curious collecting to ultimately design one’s own Soundsuit. Participants were then invited to share their works on social media and explore the countless stories one can tell through every day, found objects. Support for this project was provided by the Bridge Ahead Initiative.
Muskegon Museum of Art
Encouraging kids to get creative outdoors in Muskegon, Michigan
Embracing warm summer weather and the possibilities of safe social distancing outdoors, the Muskegon Museum of Art captured the spirit of the season and encouraged free-choice learners to get outside and chalk!
Drawn from works in the Museum’s collection, and with support from the Bridge Ahead Initiative, Chalk it Up! helped participants create, dream and explore on sidewalks, streets and driveways through chalk and big imagination. The museum store provided one free bag of chalk per child.
Inspired by contemporary artist Aminah Robinson’s process of using art to tell stories from her community, the activity, Timelessness of Life: Pages in History asked to recreate one’s neighborhood and share your snap on social.
This, among other outdoor activities, demonstrated to guests no matter where you go, you can always take the Muskegon with you.
Fenimore Art Museum
Going virtual to stay connected in Cooperstown, New York
With support from the Bridge Ahead Initiative, the museum’s Virtual Fenimore initiative provides glimpses of new exhibitions, collections and programs, with programming for audiences of all ages. These virtual experiences include performing arts, children’s programs, exhibition-related information and more.
One such Facebook post, Art Therapy: Finding Meaning Through Making, explores the practice of Art Therapy. Readers follow the daily routine of an Art Therapist, and see examples of therapy activities using an artwork in the Fenimore’s collection.
These virtual experiences have allowed the museum to remain engaged locally while expanding their reach to a worldwide audience.