Digitally Creative: How the Arts Got Online

Digitally Creative: How the Arts Got Online

By Camilla Mikolajewska

In our current day society, the use of technology has grown to be inevitable. As technology evolves, many industries adapt in order to keep up. Some industries have already begun to absorb themselves in the digital world, such as with Immersive exhibits, while others, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, have had to get creative and create a new experience that we can enjoy from the comfort of our homes. 

A big question is, how do we make way for the future of how we exhibit art while also expanding our arts community in order to attract a new client base? Digital Immersive exhibits allow for a unique perspective of art. There are many individuals who don’t see the value of examining something on a canvas, but when immersed in a large space can discover a passion they didn’t know they had. I have always seen myself as an “old soul”, spending my days at art exhibits with a mainly mature audience, and for the most part having a difficult time finding people to go to these exhibits with. When I started working at Immersive Van Gogh, what I noticed was the amount of young people attending. I found people who normally had no interest in visual arts, standing in line waiting with excitement to come see this exhibit, making it a fun night out with their friends and family. Immersive Van Gogh, and Immersive exhibits in general, are new and fresh. Accompanied by extraordinary music, they allow one to be absorbed in multiple works at once, in an entertaining way, while still gaining knowledge at the same time. Immersive Van Gogh has sparked the interest in art for many, and is no longer a niche experience catered to a specific group of people. It’s something for everyone to enjoy like going to the movies. While for those of us who really want to be at the gallery, such as being able to actually visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, this experience can help us remove ourselves from our physical world today, filling the void of not being able to travel.

Touching on the bases of travel, Covid-19 has put a damper on many of our plans. As things become more stringent, and continue to be unknown, at times it’s difficult to partake in the activities we love to do. Many art industries have now had to make adjustments in order to continue connecting people to things like art and travel. So when you don’t have the money to travel, or when a global pandemic prevents you from doing so, museums around the world have created Virtual Museum Tours, which are a fantastic way to be able to experience art and culture. I have been one to partake in quite a few of these tours, as they are free and allow me to have continuous access to particular works or exhibits. Whether it’s close ups of artworks with details about the pieces, or the ability to actually maneuver your cursor through the museum space, there are many ways one is able to enjoy the virtual museum experience.

One of the museums I explored was Museé D’Orsay in Paris where I was able to make my way through the space and examine each work on the wall as though I was actually there. Museé D’Orsay is one of my favourite museums, and I could spend hours inside there and never get bored. With this pandemic, I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to go back to Paris and enjoy the space in person, so to have the ability to enjoy it virtually for the time being is incredible. You are able to explore each wing of the museum just as you would if you went in person, zooming into each piece individually with great resolution. It’s great when you’re visiting the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist wing with all the Van Gogh pieces, as you can calmly look at each piece without a tourist knocking into you with their camera. For myself, as I navigated my way through the museum, it brought back so many happy memories. It will never replace the feeling of actually being there, but for the time being it allowed me to travel in the most minute way, and that’s the best thing one could ask for.  

Another form of the virtual experience that museums are taking on are virtual exhibits. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C, gives you insight to two of their current exhibitions: Fashioning A Nation and Vermeer, and the Masters of Genre Painting. Each exhibit provides you with an up-close view of each piece along with historical context. Regardless of the fact that this is the only way to view the exhibit now due to Covid-19, I do recommend doing tours like this prior to going to an actual exhibit in order to gain as much information as possible and to be able to truly appreciate and understand the work at hand.

I have only mentioned two museums however, several museums around the world are taking to the digital platform such as: The National Gallery London, Met Museum New York, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, Art Institute of Chicago and many more. Many museums are also offering virtual classes and lectures that people of all ages can participate in.

The AGO, for instance, is offering classes for both students and adults to take part in. Students from JK all the way to Grade 12 have a variety of free 30 minute online ZOOM lectures they can register in covering topics such as Art and the Environment, Indigenous Art and Artists, Getting to Know Art of the African Diaspora, Highlights of the AGO Collection and Art and the Senses.  Each lecture follows the Ontario Curriculum guidelines and has an element of wellness and art, in addition to small creative exercises. There are also online artist talks that are catered more towards adults, and museum tours that are led by professional art educators to help explore the collection and to entice conversations and group discussions based on their ideas or observations on selected works. The AGO also offers online visual art classes such as Introduction to Painting and Drawing, Mindful Art, and Drawing Explorations: Portraits and Landscapes. All of this helps to continue to educate people on arts and culture while helping to sustain a sense of community. 

Incorporating the digital experience in the art world is inevitable. Regardless of a pandemic, technology will continue to evolve and it is important for the arts to find their way into this medium. Through things like virtual museum tours, online courses, and when conditions allow, Immersive Exhibits, we are reinventing the experience of art and making it accessible to all in a new and fresh way. 

Photography by Camilla Mikolajewska