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Why we turn to art in this difficult moment, and where to find virtual tours – The Philadelphia Inquirer



A few weeks ago, I started to seriously fantasize about a springtime trip to Ghent, the Belgian city hosting the most comprehensive exhibition ever of the works of Jan van Eyck, the artist who perfected oil painting.

Now, like most people, my travel ambitions are limited to a walk around the neighborhood. Even if I were in Ghent, I could not see the show because the museum hosting it is closed, along with thousands more museums around the world, including in Philadelphia.

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It’s little wonder that a phenomenon has been bubbling up all over the internet and spreading on social media — the virtual museum experience. It seems like every online publication and newsfeed has been touting on-screen art-viewing, without crowds, from the relative safety of your own home.

Nearly all museums have spent the last couple of decades digitizing their collections, and the amount of art available to be seen online and even downloaded to your computer is staggering. In addition, Google Arts & Culture has partnered with more than 2,500 museums of different sorts around the world to present thematic slideshows, detailed discussion of single works, and museum walk-throughs.

Several local institutions are included, though not impressively. Near and far doesn’t matter in cyberspace. You might as well see everything.

Art through a curator’s eye

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Indeed, there is so much available it is impossible to say where to start, let alone to draw conclusions. I explored impulsively, letting one thing lead to another, as things do on the web. I can report, though, that many of the sites offer interpretation and documentation difficult to find elsewhere. They really enable you to see an artist through the eye of a top curator.

Their drawback, of course, is that you are not seeing the works with your own eyes, noticing things for yourself in the presence of a handmade object. Online art viewing offers plenty of detail, expertise and fun facts, and even animation. The art’s emotional content — the reason I suspect many are turning to art in this difficult moment — is more elusive.

And while exploring Brazil’s Museu de Arte São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, which features an enormous open room in which paintings are mounted on Plexiglas panels, all facing the same direction, I found myself stuck only looking at the paintings’ backs.

But when I switched from my desktop to my tablet, after installing the Google Arts & Culture App, I was able to walk around my bedroom while on-screen I toured the museum. It was fun, but to really see the works of art, you need to leave the walk-through and peruse the high-definition images on the site.

While each museum’s website is unique, the Google app standardizes the experience so you can quickly see whether an institution offers virtual walk-throughs and slideshows, which the site calls stories, in addition to selections from the collections. There is no real relationship between the size of the museum and its online offerings.

Vermeer at your leisure

For example, Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the largest in the world, offers only one story. But it is an important one, a discussion of Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting.

As the viewer scrolls down, the camera moves over the surface of the painting and captions appear describing the painter’s methods, possible meanings of the painting, and the clothes and artifacts to be seen. You probably spend more time with this painting in this virtual version than if you make the trip to Vienna and had to dodge the shoals of tourists brandishing selfie sticks who converge on this canvas. (I’m still glad to have done so.)

This museum, like most, offers images of some of its most important works, and I couldn’t leave without taking a look at some of the great paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder such as Children’s Games, The Peasant Wedding, and The Tower of Babel.

These are incredibly complex works, full of symbolism and incident, humor and warning. They reward time and patience, and it might be easier to immerse yourself in these paintings and on-screen than it is standing and looking at them in a museum.

The Tower of Babel, that quintessential story of misplaced confidence, misunderstood communication, and monumental failure, seems resonant with our moment. As you stare at the screen you can see the beauty of the edifice, the swarms of workers, and the king who is giving orders, oblivious that the building is falling down even as it rises up.

And since our digital devices are tools of distraction as well as exploration, I was soon looking at the analysis of Bruegel’s The Fall of the Rebel Angels from the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. The slideshow does a great job of explicating one of the painter’s darkest canvases, which combines images of the beginning of time with the end of the world and teems with monsters and grotesques.

Bruegel in VR

On the Google Arts & Culture home page, I found a link for the museum’s virtual reality film of the work. In A Fall With the Rebel Angels, St. Michael and his heavenly allies flap their realistic birdlike wings as they grapple with dark demons, while fantastical creatures float past.

It takes place in an apparently three-dimensional space. If you tilt the viewing angle, you can see almost all the way to heaven. This is not an improvement on Bruegel, but it is engaging, which is what the internet is designed to be.

Seeing that I was in virtual Brussels, I decided to click my way to virtual Ghent. The website there is essentially a promotion for the now-shuttered show, but it contains several good slideshows that at least hint at what makes Jan van Eyck such an uncannily precise yet spiritual painter.

I love knowing that a blue brooch worn by an angel in one of the panels of the Ghent Altarpiece shows the reflection of a specific window at its original location, and the reflection is optically correct.

Like the best of what I discovered online, it gives me something to think about when I can get out of the house and start looking at art for real.

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Vancouver Art Gallery, Royal B.C. Museum launch free digital activities for the whole family –



The novel coronavirus has forced museums and galleries to shut their doors, but a couple of British Columbia’s biggest have made it possible to enjoy some of what they have to offer from the comfort of your couch.

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) and the Royal B.C. Museum (RBCM) in Victoria, B.C. are now offering live, interactive events online on a regular basis while people are holed up at home to slow the spread of the virus.

Every Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and Friday at 4:30 p.m., the VAG will stream conversations with guests from local and international arts communities as part of its new digital Art Connects series. The events are free and anyone can join using the web-based video conferencing tool Zoom.

The series kicked off March 31 with two curators giving viewers an in-depth look at the VAG’s newest exhibition The Tin Man Was a Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Powerwhich was meant to open in the gallery the week the building closed.

“It’s a way that we can feature international artists during the situation,” said VAG’s interim chief curator Diana Freundl.

Freundl said she has already seen an enthusiastic response from the public, with more than one hundred people registering for the first event within days after it was promoted.

You can find out more details on how to participate in VAG’s Art Connects events here.

Drawing dinosaurs

The province’s flagship museum is offering activities for kids every Wednesday at 11 a.m. starting April 1. 

First up for the wee ones at RBCM is learning to draw a dinosaur with Victoria Arbour, the museum’s paleontology curator.

And not just any dino, but Buster, one of the first and most complete skeletons of a mountain dinosaur found in B.C. that Arbour helped identify and name.

Victoria Arbour looks over items from the paleontology collection at the Royal B.C. Museum. Arbour is looking forward to answering children’s questions about dinosaurs while teaching how to draw them. (Brandy Yanchyk/Canadian Press)

“I’ve got dinosaurs on my brain a lot of the time,” said Arbour Tuesday in an interview on On The Island.

She said drawing is a big part of her scientific research and she will be encouraging kids to ask her whatever they want to know about dinosaurs while they draw.

All that is needed to join Arbour is a Zoom connection, paper and a pencil.

And grownups, there is something at RBCM for you too.

Every Tuesday and Thursday at noon, the museum is offering online chats with curators and archivists to learn more about what they do, and how they do it from home these days. 

To find out more about participating in RBCM’s online programs visit here.

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Museum challenge has people to recreate famous works of art at home | Mapped – Daily Hive



Channel your inner artist and bring some creativity to your quarantine with a challenge from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

The museum issued a fun competition across their social media channels on Wednesday enlisting fans to recreate their favourite pieces of art with three household objects.

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“Thousands and thousands of re-creations later, we’re in awe of your creative powers and sense of humor,” the museum wrote in a blog post.

According to the post, the challenge was inspired by Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

However, they’ve updated and adapted the playful game by using digitized, downloadable works from Getty’s online collection.

The competition has seen thousands of submissions from around the world of people utilizing the materials in their homes to create their own renditions of some of the most iconic pieces of art.

Getty Museum also provides helpful tips for those who may feel creatively stuck in forming their masterpieces. The full list can be found in the blog post.

“The only tools you need for this activity are your imagination and a picture of a work of art you like or find interesting,” the post describes.

Participants are instructed to browse the online collection and select a keyword to search for ideas.

If you have a particular household item that you think would work well, you can also begin by searching for that as your keyword.

Once you have an idea in mind of which piece of art you would like to create, the next step is to find the right materials.

“Any objects are fine: from a blank piece of paper to your most elaborate hat,” the post explains.

“You can stick to 3 and see what you come up with, but you’re welcome to use as many as you like.”

Getty Museum also encourages the incorporation of pets to add a fun flair to your submission.

And with that, you are ready to create!

If you plan on posting to social media once you’re finished, be sure to use the hashtags #betweenartandquarantine and #tussenkunstenquarataine.

Here are some of our favourite submissions:

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ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre looking for artists to exhibit in 2021 – Alberni Valley News





Although the Rollin Art Centre is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Community Arts Council is still accepting artist applications for the 2021 calendar year.

Don’t miss this opportunity to have your own art exhibit or group exibit. Application forms are available online at All submissions must be sent by email to

The deadline for applications is April 30, 2020.


Due to Covid-19, the Celtic Chaos fundraising performance has been postponed (not cancelled). A new date will be announced as soon as possible. All tickets will be honoured.


The watercolour workshop with Victoria artist Joanne Thomson and the Fun Flowers painting workshop at North Island College have both been cancelled. Email for a full refund if you were registered to be in either of these workshops.


In response to the growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and for the safety of our communities, the Rollin Art Centre gallery will be closed until further notice. This means that we will be postponing all performances and programs until further notice. If you have any questions or concerns about the gallery and programming —or are looking for a way to be creative during this period! —please reach out to

*If you have any questions regarding cancelled/postponed events or programs, please email at the above address.

Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412.

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