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Zimmerli Art Museum offers online activities, tours amid coronavirus outbreak

Due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Rutgers Zimmerli Art Museum found alternative ways to offer remote activities, such as presenting slideshow tours and posting coloring book pages on its website.
Photo by Photo by Facebook | The Daily TargumDue to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Rutgers Zimmerli Art Museum found alternative ways to offer remote activities, such as presenting slideshow tours and posting coloring book pages on its website.

In response to people self-quarantining for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, the Rutgers Zimmerli Art Museum has joined the #MuseumFromHome movement with guided art activities, virtual tours and more, said Amanda Potter, the museum's curator of education and interpretation.

The hashtag arose from museums' efforts to engage the public through online alternatives during the outbreak, according to the American Alliance of Museums. The Zimmerli Art Museum has increased its efforts to provide content on its website and Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, said Nicole Simpson, assistant curator of prints and drawings.

Simpson and Potter are showcasing slideshow tours of the museum’s exhibitions and galleries, featuring works from collections and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the museum on its Instagram, Simpson said. They also posted a coloring book on the museum's website with coloring pages of favorite works from the museum’s collections, Potter said.

“I believe strongly in the power of art to connect people across different times and cultures,” Potter said. “At this time when we’re asked to physically isolate ourselves, I believe that looking at art can still help us feel connected to something outside those confines and that creating art can be a positive distraction (and) a way to reflect on and process these experiences.”

Potter said online activities also enable the Zimmerli Art Museum to continue offering work to its freelance teaching artists, who are preparing its new weekly Art Together Online series. She said their goal with the series is to provide art activities that people of all ages can do with materials they have at home.

Nabila Dadabhoy, an alumna of the Mason Gross School of the Arts, led the first art activity posted on April 4 to Instagram. Dadabhoy demonstrated how to make abstract landscapes that capture a certain mood in the spirit of children’s picture-book author Roger Duvoisin’s illustrations.

“Art Together is about children and their families making their own art and sharing their work together,” Dadabhoy said in the video tutorial. “Projects in Art Together are inspired by pieces from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s current exhibitions. I created this project with the (‘Mood Books: The Children’s Stories of Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin’) exhibition in mind.”

Zimmerli Art Museum's staff said they saw an opportunity to look back at what painter and TV host Bob Ross did by giving art demonstrations on television, according to an article on Rutgers Today.

“For many viewers, it wasn’t about learning how to make art,” Potter said. “But many people who never picked up a paintbrush in their lives tuned in because they found it relaxing and soothing. Whether they actually create something or just look at the works we’re posting, we hope those who engage in our offerings will feel the same way.”

Zimmerli Art Museum Director Thomas Sokolowski said the audience for museums is wider than ever before due to museums becoming accessible online. 

“We serve not only the University community, but we serve the city of New Brunswick, we serve Middlesex County, the state of New Jersey, and then the metropolitan areas and then worldwide,” Sokolowski said. “And there are various levels of education that come into it, various levels of sophistication, so your platform has to be built in a way that there's something for everyone.”

Simpson said museums offer a range of experiences, from spaces for quiet contemplation and creative inspiration to places for active, open discussions about difficult social and political issues. 

“As we are all facing these unprecedented times with a mixture of emotions, we hope that the Zimmerli can continue to provide a virtual outlet for empathy, understanding and community,” Simpson said.