Exploring the arts at a distance

March 20, 2020


Photo from Smithsonian Newsroom

Some museums, such as the Smithsonian, have published many of their exhibits online.

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly through the world, governments and private groups alike are taking as many precautions as possible. Across the globe, this includes closing museums, theaters and more hubs for the arts. At the time of this article’s publication, all Smithsonian museums are closed, as well as most other major museums in D.C., New York City and California. World-renowned art museums like the Louvre in France and the Prado in Spain are also indefinitely closed to the public. 

These closures affect more than just the museums—Broadway is shuttered until early April and possibly longer. Carnegie Hall and the Teatro alla Scala opera house, among other centers for musical performances, are also closed. Even smaller movie theaters and art studios are closing out of an abundance of caution. 

While following guidelines for social distancing is important, it can also feel disheartening. Cultural centers across the world are closed to the public, many with no indication of when they will reopen. Fortunately, in the digital age, it is possible to continue exploring the arts at a safe distance. 

The Smithsonian institution has published hundreds of online exhibits with high quality photographs and accompanying information for anyone to access, completely free of charge. New York museums, such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of New York, are also offering some of their exhibits for viewing free online, despite the closures. Google’s Art Project from their cultural institution has collected thousands of artworks digitally from other museums around the world. 

The Smithsonian also has a virtual tour of the Museum of Natural History, with 360° views of the buildings and exhibits—which is completely crowd-free. The Louvre has a similar style of virtual tour for their most popular exhibits, for those who want to explore the world’s largest art museum without even leaving your bedroom. 

For those looking to do more than just view art, digital software offers new ways to experience art. Traditional sketching, drawing and painting can all take place online with the free open-source program Krita, available for download from their official website. With tools to create your own brushes, add and manage dozens of layers and even animate in 2D, this program provides all the flexibility you need from your own computer. 

If you are looking to try a different type of art, Sculptris by Pixologic is also a free downloadable program that allows the user to sculpt in 3D, similar to working with clay. It offers tutorials for any beginner to pick up and learn about the software. 

With opera houses, theaters, and concerts being shut down or cancelled, there are also many ways to have these cultural experiences online. Music streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora offer free subscriptions that give listeners access to not only traditional music, but also live concert recordings, musical theatre performances, and even podcasts and audiobooks ranging from stand-up comedy to true crime investigations. In addition, the Metropolitan Opera is streaming encore performances on its homepage. Each performance will begin streaming at 7:30 p.m. EDT and will remain available online for 20 hours.

For theater tapes, some theaters are offering free access to recordings of their plays and musicals. On The Boards, a Portland experimental theatre, is offering their performances free with the code ARTATHOME20 until April. Instagram account @24hourplays is posting 15 minute monologues from famous actors and actresses every 15 minutes on IGTV, starting Tuesday, March 17 at 6:00 p.m. All Arts offers free videos and inspirations in all fields of the arts. 

After it all, if you just need a relaxing break, the Smithsonian Zoo and the Monterey Bay Aquarium offer live cams of several of their animal exhibits while they are closed to the public. 

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