Michelle Hargrave, CEO and Executive Director of the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, discusses the venue's operations during this period of social distancing. We spoke on Friday, March 27.
Our mission is to bring art and people together, and we felt like while we miss seeing people in person with our doors closed, there was a great way to continue to advance that mission and really continue to connect, inspire, and entertain our audiences through our Web site and through social media. And one of the ways that we're doing that is with our virtual museum. As with all of our online engagement, it is a work in progress and we'll continue to add to it, and in the virtual museum we're offering a tour of some of our highlights in our collection. But we're also offering things like art activities and ways to learn about different artists in the Figge Art Museum.
It's broken up into three sections – four if you include the online store. There's a “Learn and Relax” section, there's a “Kids and Family Activities” section, and then there's an “Art Tours” section. All of them currently feature, and will continue to feature, different content that will be updated on a daily basis, and the social-media platforms may offer some unique items as well that will not feature on the Web site, like trivia and fun activities like that.
Art Tours and Exhibitions
The “Art Tours” section is where you can participate in the audio tour that will feature some of the highlights of our collection. We're also working on a community curated exhibition where community members can submit their artwork to be included in the upcoming virtual art exhibition, which should be fun.
But we're also looking at different tours of the museum itself. So our curators were filmed this week talking about some of the exhibitions, and I'll be speaking about some of the different works in the Figge's collection, as well. Longer videos, obviously, will be on the Web site, and with the social-media platforms, we'll be linking people to our site. I sort of leave all those details to our social-media team. (Laughs.) I'm happy to advise and to talk with them, but they handle the logistics of it.
Kids and Family
For the “Kids and Family Activities” section, we've got printable activity sheets and coloring pages. We're also in the process of creating a series of follow-along activities that will focus on different artists, and the first activity is “Learn to print like Warhol” – it's a two-minute video, and it's art using materials that you can find in your home. You can make your own soup can or banana or whatever you want. (Laughs.) We'll continue to make those videos and upload those.
Then we also have a list of educational resources for teachers and parents alike. One of the things that we heard from both parents and teachers was that they would just be inundated with materials and resources, and they were looking for some help with navigating those and cutting through the noise. So our outreach educators put together a list of resources that they recommend.
Learn and Relax
And we have a section called “Learn and Relax,” and that's where you can learn about specific artists. But we'll also be focusing a little bit on nature and doing some deep looking, as well, at specific works of art. It's designed to inspire people, but also to let them decompress. We are also going to offer things like museum bingo and a trivia night online.
And we have this genie robot [companion service] that we usually used for tours for cancer patients while they're getting treatment. Obviously, we can't do that right now because of what's going on in the hospitals and the medical community. So instead, we're working with one particular university at the moment to engage their students in online tours. And then we will be offering this to other universities in the area, as well.
We're considering doing some other online classes. One of our most popular adult classes has been the Wine & Art class, so we're looking into making that a virtual class. And we have a program called Big Picture Outreach where our educators go to schools within an hour of the Figge, and they offer free art classes. So they will be taking some of the lessons that they offer at the schools and offering those online. It's an unusual time, but I've got a wonderful team and we're doing our best.
How to Support the Figge … and Each Other
Like every arts organization, we are experiencing some challenges with our revenue having come to a halt. So there are a lot of ways you can support us. If you purchased tickets for canceled programs and events, you can donate those back to the museum. You can become a member and then visit us often throughout the year when we re-open. You could step up your current membership to become a contributing member. You could support an upcoming exhibition or program as a sponsor. You could plan your next wedding, party, or corporate event at the Figge. Buy a gift certificate to the museum store. Donate to the Figge at our Web site. Or sign up to volunteer when we re-open.
These days, I think we just really need to find the joy in the little things, and take it day by day. We don't know how things are going to progress and at what speed. And so we need to be nimble; we need to adapt as needed. And we need to do everything we can to stay safe and healthy and take care of each other.