Community and Art Linchpin
CAM brings the community together with virtual programming
When Cameron Art Museum closed its galleries on March 17 due to COVID-19, it didn’t stop museum deputy director HEATHER WILSON from making sure that the public and its members could still view the exhibits and attend events.
Within three days of closing, the museum announced #ConnectwithCAM, enabling virtual tours of the museum galleries; videos and social media posts about the collections; and programs.
People have been able to access all this online programing through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
“We know that art supports us and improves our quality of life, especially during stressful times,” Wilson says.
The anchor artwork, purposely selected by museum executive director ANNE BRENNAN, is a 170-year-old tulip quilt made by an unknown enslaved woman from North Carolina.
“A story of strength and perseverance of people rebuilding a life in the face of despair is still so alive through her masterful stitch work. During the COVID-19 crisis, skills of quilters are essentially valued for the production of facemasks,” Brennan says.
“We hope the tulip quilt renews appreciation for the art and vitality that quilters bring to our very existence,” Brennan adds.
A Facebook Live session with Brennan talking about the quilt has been viewed over 7000 times.
#ConnectwithCAM also features a virtual exhibition of celebrated American architect and photographer Phil Freelon. Additionally, Stories in Print is a virtual tour of prints from the museum’s permanent collection including art donated by generous private collectors.
Live meditation sessions, which include breath work and journal writing, are hosted weekly. Daily postings on social media feature art from both the museum’s exhibitions and permanent collections.
Art Explorers on Facebook Live is one of the most popular programs.
“Art Explorers is great for families who are homebound with their children. It supports parents, brightens children’s days and teaches critical thinking skills,” Wilson says.
Online lesson plans and supply lists are updated weekly. Lessons feature works from the museum’s collections and famous works of art. GEORGIA MASTROIENI (pictured below) hosts the program from her home with her toddler at her side.
“My favorite part about hosting Art Explorers is interacting real-time with children and families through online comments,” Mastroieni says. “And I love to see the posted pictures of finished artwork. The young artists look so happy and proud.”
Mastroieni’s son often makes a cameo appearance during the program, sometimes just for a minute and sometimes long enough to steal the show.
“I think all parents can relate to the unpredictability of working from home while taking care of your children,” Mastroieni says.
Art Explorers has drawn up to 1000 views per session.
CAM has also recently introduced #washyourwebs campaign.
“We have giant inflatable ducks marching towards the pond on our museum property and on top of the museum,’ Wilson explains. “It’s a playful way to emphasize the very serious message about hand washing. Signs read ‘Wash Your Webs’ and we love folks posting images of our ducks on social media.”
Wilson, who has been employed at the museum for fourteen years, was previously responsible for strategic planning, fundraising, and grant writing for the museum.
“The museum had to make deep budget cuts in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Our leadership is doing everything we can to assure the museum’s future,” Wilson says.
Brennan adds, “Cameron Art Museum belongs to you. There is no other museum in North Carolina like it. We own it together as a community. The museum will continue to exist only with your financial support.”
“We believe the opportunity to serve through #ConnectwithCAM offers new ways for us to participate more fully in the making of our experiences and what our future will be together.”
Wilson agrees. “Art brings us together, no matter what the distance.”