Museum of Contemporary Art Denver allows patrons to bring artwork home (virtually!)

April 28, 2020

     In a somewhat surprising turn of fate, social media has risen to the task of answering this question: How can I appreciate art without stepping foot into a museum? Remote operations over Instagram and Twitter have allowed museums to elevate the conversation and practice of art to all members of the public. Museums, artists and curators are finding ways to adjust to the new normal, innovatively bringing art and encouraging creative expression to the communities they serve. 

     It is the moments when the world feels overwhelming that I crave art the most. While many of us have more time to create and experiment with art or hobbies, there is something lacking in the solitary process during this time of quarantine.  

     With an abundance of alone time, the joy in making art alone has lost its potency. Part of this may be due to too much time alone or a simple fatigue with the news but working on a project on your own suddenly feels disjointed when everything else we do is alone.  

     There is a paradox of art that has always excited me—that it takes place in solitude but is celebrated communally. It is this fact that makes art so compelling and a subversion of the other constraints of life we work within. Life sometimes feels like a public experience that is grieved in private, and it is art that lets us invert that dynamic. 

     Like everything else COVID-19 has changed, daily life is no longer public. So how, in turn, can the process of observing and making art subvert the struggle of daily life when the celebration of it cannot be communal either? 

     The purpose of museums has never simply been to educate. Though historically they have sometimes been exclusionary places, reflecting or even encouraging the ills of the society they work within and comment on, museums’ role as a means of encouraging the creation in all its forms has been buttressed by their ability to reach members of the community online. At Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), outreach and interaction with the public has accelerated during the quarantine. The purpose is to “encourage us all to do something fun together,” as written on the museum’s Instagram page.  

     This purpose is something that was already true before the adjustment to online and social media operations but is somehow truer now. That is, the consumption of art has become more active and involved. Patrons are encouraged to partake in #LetsMCA challenges. In the past four weeks, participants have been given prompts to spend time making art, reading, creating outfits and putting wigs on their dog. The end results are shared to the 50,000 followers on the MCA Instagram page.  

     While the pieces of art sit dormant for the moment, social media has allowed collective expressions of art to flourish, with members of the community sharing their personal expressions and thoughts collectively. 

     In a way, the forced isolation has provided an opportunity to fully realize the mission of MCA Denver—to be an “innovative forum for contemporary art that inspires and challenges all audiences.” Social media provides museums like MCA the capacity to reach wider audiences and elevates the museumgoer from observer to artist.