Message from Nancy Lake Benson and Heather Nielsen
This most unusual year demonstrated, more than ever, the power of art and creativity to heal a community and bring moments of respite and joy. The learning and engagement staff developed the following programs inside the museum, in the community, and online.
The family-friendly play Art Emergency: Monet Edition brought the magic of Monet’s artworks to life. Families attended during Winter Break and from October–January, this performance was part of the Monet school tour experience. About 13,500 school kids saw the play, visited the exhibition, and also toured The Light Show on their own with a self-guided book.
The First Light Family Space and the Paint Studio reminded us that the museum is a place where all can be creative. Before closing in March, the Paint Studio hosted 20 Denver-based artists to demonstrate their techniques and give people a look into their artistic processes. Visitors, young and old, experimented and played with light and color, getting messy and practicing their creative skills.
With the pandemic came change, reflection, and opportunity.
We committed to finding ways to continue our support of the local artist community and share their talents with our visitors both online and outside. Our Demonstrating Artist program went online, highlighting how the creative community continued to seek inspiration during this time. The team worked with local artist Andrew Huffman and created an interactive installation for the plaza. Untitled became Untitled: Creative Fusion at Home. The hallmarks of Untitled—artist encounters, offbeat art tours, performances, and artmaking—transitioned to online and we used video and live chat functions to encourage in-the-moment participation.
With the social movements of the summer came the need to lean into our artist community as engines of change and innovation. In July, we collaborated with artist and activist Brenton Weyi, who hosted a virtual Untitled: Creative Fusions-related event called Dreams of the Future: Community Conversation, inside Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom. The conversation brought educators, a constitutional law professor from DU, artists, and activists together for a talk about what a society that embodies freedom for all would look and feel like.
During the pandemic, adult programming went virtual creating moments of much-needed social connection. The Drop-in Drawing, Drop-in Writing, Art and About, and Mindful Looking programs went virtual in June, and online attendance has been consistently high, with Mindful Looking attendance peaking at over 100 participants several months in a row. We welcomed adult learners on-site for a three-part course called Monet: The Artist & His World in the fall and in April we delivered our inaugural virtual art history course, Art in America: Homer & Remington in Context, with over 270 in attendance.
With schools in our community forced to tackle remote learning and parents taking on teaching responsibilities, Creativity Resource become the central location for all youth-related programming. We created new digital resources to support educators working with students remotely and families at home. We created an online guide for the Norman Rockwell exhibition as a support to families having crucial conversations around race in America with their kids.
Untitled: Creative Fusions at Home
Starting with the May 2020 event, Untitled went virtual, becoming Untitled: Creative Fusions at Home. Livestreams featured offbeat art tours, performances, and more with local creatives.
The youth programs staff created a series of videos to help families and students spark their creativity from home.
In the community
We received a second Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to fund Creative Aging at the museum. Staff brought art experiences to under-resourced older adults living in Denver-area residential communities and attending adult day centers. We mounted a community exhibition at the Olin Hotel Apartments and delivered a museum experience in a box to community centers and adults isolated in their homes through the Art at Hand program. Celebrating the healing power of art and nature, the team collaborated with the Denver Botanic Gardens to build and plant a sensory garden, a new interdisciplinary outdoor space near the Martin Building. The garden is slated to open with the Learning and Engagement Center.
When we heard about the inequities facing students in our community who lack access to arts engagement, we responded. Over the summer, we developed Art Lives Here Creativity Kits comprised of basic art supplies—glue, pencils, watercolors, and scissors—and materials directing them to Creativity Resource, distributing 3,300 to school and community partners.
This was a year of challenges and unbearable hardship. Yet, we learned what can happen when we embrace our creativity and honor the voices of our community to engage deeply and bring art and creativity to many.
- Nancy Lake Benson, Chair of the Education Committee
- Heather Nielsen, Chief Learning and Engagement Officer