A month after COVID-19 temporarily closed UCR ARTS to the public, its employees launched a new website to bring art into your home. With the Culver Center’s 10th anniversary approaching, it serves as a place to celebrate art at UC Riverside and the city of Riverside.
VirtualUCRARTS.ucr.edu features online exhibitions, a virtual cinema, activities for kids, artist interviews, and performances. It includes objects from the collections and exhibitions of the California Museum of Photography and Culver Center of the Arts.
“Like every other institution, we were unable to have any patrons inside our actual museum” said Nikolay Maslov, curator of Film and Media Projects. “The Virtual UCR ARTS project started as a way to supplement our existing website with something that could support more dynamic content.”
One highlight of the site is 360-degree virtual tours of current exhibitions. These tours give site visitors the experience of walking through the gallery with an expert in the field by their side.
Facing Fire, a fire-inspired exhibition that opened at the California Museum of Photography in February, just a few weeks before the closure, is one of the featured tours. The Facing Fire tour includes commentary by UCR ARTS Senior Curator Douglas McCulloh. Visitors can also get a closer look at some of the art objects in the exhibition and watch an interview with one of the artists, Stuart Palley, on the same webpage.
Frequent UCR ARTS visitors will be excited to know that Virtual UCR ARTS is also bringing back several exhibitions from the past, in time for the Culver Center’s 10th anniversary. Also returning is UNCAGED: Hero for Higher, a 2018 Culver Center exhibition that examined Marvel’s comic book character Luke Cage as a representation of black masculinity. UNCAGED was organized by one of UC Riverside’s Media and Cultural Studies professors, John Jennings. Jennings can also be found on the website speaking with his curating colleague, Stacey Robinson, about their 2019 exhibition, Reflection Eternal: The Candyman Illustrated Syllabus. Other interviews include the artists of 2015’s Second Wave and 2017’s Mundos Alternos.
Visitors who miss weekend screenings of independent, international, and documentary films at the Culver Center can rent a movie on the site. Fifty percent of all proceeds go towards supporting UCR ARTS.
“Through partnerships with a number of film distributors, we've been able to bring online films that we otherwise would have screened in our theater,” Maslov said. “We also have cat videos!”
At this time of year, the Manager of School & Volunteer Docent Programs, Lindsey Hammel, would typically be organizing in-person tours and events for students. With the closure, Hammel is working from home producing content for a new series called “UCR ARTS for Kids.”
“We knew that this time is difficult for families and educators, and wanted to provide resources for them,” Hammel said. “Parents are juggling working from home and helping their kids with school work while many educators are pivoting to teaching virtually.”
With her own son’s help, she creates videos with art history lessons, storytimes, and demonstrations of art activities that families can do using materials they can find at home. “Even with summer approaching, parents will still likely scour the internet for ways to keep their children engaged and entertained with many summer camps closed,” Hammel said.
UCR ARTS also plans to continue the “Virtual Family First Sundays” program, making puzzles and games inspired by artworks, creating Animal Crossing patterns, and providing photography and art lesson plans for teachers and families.
“The Virtual UCR ARTS site allows us to keep engaging with our community and to really think about what we can do as an institution online,” Maslov said. “We're planning on expanding our online presence in the coming months and keeping that going post-COVID.”