Is your museum still open and operating with certain staff members coming in to work?
We are closed to the public but we are definitely still working. We understand losing income is real so we gave our staff new assignments and tasks so they would still receive a paycheck. Many of them are working from home. This closure has actually been a very productive time for us. We have managed to complete some long overdue maintenance and upgrades to our galleries and it has challenged all of us to think outside of the box on ways we may continue to serve the community while our buildings are closed.
MOAH Staff Emily Krebs completing condition reports
Are you in touch with your members, fans and donors? Are they still interested in going to the museum or your programming or are they showing hesitation due to their finances due to the stock market slump or fears of the virus?
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many of our members and donors renew their memberships and additionally make donations to our Artist Relief Fund.
In your opinion, how long will this temporary shutdown of the LA art world last?
MOAH plans to be open by July, maybe before that, but we will definitely be implementing some new policies and procedures during our open hours, including staggered/timed entry, lowering attendance limits in galleries, providing multiple sanitation stations throughout the museum, requiring gloves, masks and other protective equipment for staff interacting with the public, requiring visitors to wear masks, posting signage requesting/reinforcing social distancing behavior for visitors and discontinuing large group events like public receptions, performances, etc.
MOAH’s Young Artist Workshop take home craft kits.
How are you overcoming the challenges we are now facing?
This is an excellent time to reevaluate the effectiveness of programs, community engagement and exhibition opportunities. Obviously the virtual exhibition is an option but not really a new idea. We will continue our regular video presentation of all of our exhibitions on our website but with feedback from our artist community we realized other opportunities are needed. We have partnered with Destination Lancaster for our annual juried exhibition, which will obviously be online this year, to offer paid opportunities to artists for their work that will be used in the promotion of Lancaster as a travel destination. The artists will receive a stipend for the work and the art will be dispersed through marketing campaigns in the form of postcards at trade shows, in hotels and at the visitor center. We are also expanding our monograph and catalog publication program to include some fun options for both artists and visitors like all ages coloring books. We reinvented our monthly Young Artist Workshop to a weekly free take home craft kit for parents with children at home looking for educational activities. This program regularly served around 50 families monthly. Now we are serving 300 families a week with these fun take home kits. Also, with families in mind, MOAH staff developed a children’s YouTube channel @JoshuaJackrabbit complete with dozens of workshop videos and will soon include our educational trunks too.
MOAH staff member Kacey Manjarrez designing marketing campaign.
How can Artillery’s readers help museums and artists while they are closed?
I think the obvious response here is to donate money if you are able. We are fortunate that MOAH is a municipal museum and we have a very strong fundraising Foundation that supports our programming. We are not forced to rely on donations to operate which puts us in a unique situation. However most museums do rely on donations for operations – give if you can and buy art! There are a number of affordable art auctions online right now that are supporting artists in need.
MOAH staff Emily Krebs, Carlos Chavez and Andi Campognone laying out art for upcoming show
Some art professionals are optimistic, and others worried. How do you feel? Is there anything surprisingly positive you have noticed so far? Or something you feel you or we all could learn from this?
I have been working in this industry for over 30 years and I have never before experienced the kindness, generosity and spirit that has appeared in the last month. Community actually means something right now, it’s beautiful to see. It’s great to see artists helping artists, businesses helping businesses, all creating a sense of hope that is palpable. I am proud to be a part of this community.