COVID-19 has most definitely hit our communities hard, and it's been tough for many to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, focusing on the positive outcomes that the global pandemic has provided us, it may help us in coming to terms with the negative.
On the bright side of COVID-19-- museums, exhibitions, and galleries have become much more accessible to wider populations through their use of online and virtual exhibitions. To begin with, museums have a long history of being elite social institutions that were never meant to be made accessible to marginalized communities. However much the times are changing and people are becoming more aware of this glaring issue, museums have struggled to stay relevant to the communities they refuse to serve.
During the pandemic, with several countries across the world in lockdown, art museums and galleries have taken the chance to reinvent the ways that they cater to different audiences. This means making galleries and exhibitions more accessible- and they have done this by transferring many of their pieces online. Now, anyone with an internet connection can experience the educational aspects that museums can offer. This article gives you five virtual exhibits that are focused on Latinx art and history, enabling us with a view like never before!
Museum of Latin American Art
Located in Long Beach, California, the Museum of Latin American art has taken advantage of the quarantine that COVID-19 has required of everyone by completely going digital. They have recorded several videos that are now uploaded to youtube, allowing viewers to walk through the galleries and grounds of the museum. Additionally, they have digitized their permanent collection and it can now be viewed on their website. A really cool aspect of this museum though is its digital temporary exhibitions as well! On their website, you’ll find an extra link, titled “MOLAA En Casa” which will take you to all of their previous temporary exhibits that have been archived for viewers. Each of the temporary exhibits gives viewers a short description and a list of contributors and their work. Some of the temporary exhibits are really amazing too, like I Am: New Afro-Latinx Narratives, En Vision: Picturing the Self, and Arte, Mujer, y Memoria: Arpilleras from Chile. This is for sure a website you are going to want to visit, as the actual physical location may be just a little far from our Urbana-Champaign.
National Museum of Mexican Art
The National Museum of Mexican Art is located in the neighborhood of Pilesen in Chicago. Normally, the museum offers completely free admission to its galleries, which are continuously changed around and updated to reflect the changing nature of the city and the community, while also staying true to its roots in the permanent art collection. Closed since March 2020, the museum has now been offering an exclusive look at selections of the permanent exhibit on their website, and the selections also change so that viewers can get a chance to see as much online as they do in person. Additionally, the museum has also been offering virtual tours that you can sign up for on their website. These virtual tours take place mostly on the weekends, making them a great and fun way to visit the museums galleries without leaving the comfort and safety of your home. In addition to the virtual tours, the museum has also offered music and movie events virtually throughout the year as well. You can visit their website at nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes
This museum is unique, as it is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute in Los Angeles and receives government funding. Since the pandemic, they have had to get creative in how they bring visitors into their galleries, and so they have done this virtually. Similar to the MOLAA, LA Plaza has begun a new series called “En Casa con LA Plaza.” This is mostly a series of virtual events, where anyone can register online to receive the zoom link for the event. The events range widely from cooking tutorials, to conversations with experts, to cultural showcases, and political discussions. Also on their website, you can find 3D virtual tours of both temporary and permanent exhibits. With all these cool tools and resources available through just one website, LA Plaza’s virtual events are something you will for sure want to take advantage of!
El Museo del Barrio
El Museo, as it’s more commonly known, is a New York staple that has provided a voice for the Boricua community since its founding in 1969. Although it does emphasize the Caribbean and Puerto Rican art, history, and culture, Latin American and Central American art is also showcased here. Throughout the pandemic, El museo has come up with several digital and virtual events that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. These digital events include online exhibits, which provide introductory information, a 3D virtual tour of some galleries, and a feature that allows you to click on the works to gain more information. The virtual tours are done very efficiently, and are definitely worth taking a look at, especially if Caribbean and Caribbean-American identities are something of interest to you!
Harwood Museum of Art
Located in Taos, New Mexico, The Harwood Museum of Art consists of a community of local artists and historians that showcase the culture, history, and ongoing community of Indigenous peoples. The museum has several temporary exhibits that are now open to the public with proper social distancing measures in place, however there are also still several online exhibitions that can be seen from the comfort of your home. Along with introductory information and images, there are also exhibits that contain youtube tutorials on how to complete your own art projects, such as paper cranes. After completing the paper cranes, they can be turned into the museum where they will be hung on display under the awnings by the museum entrance. The virtual events also include discussions of accessibility and curator tours!
Surely COVID-19 and quarantining has taught us much and also taken away many events and experiences. But we really can begin to make light of the situation when taking advantage of the resources that these great museums have provided, especially when they’re trying to be more inclusive and accessible to our communities!