How to Access Virtual Visual Art Resources at the Pratt

by Doyun Lee, Librarian

Though the recent closures due to COVID-19 prevents us from visiting art galleries and seeing works of art in person, there is an abundance of opportunities for visual art experiences online. Most major museums and other institutions have worked over the years towards digitizing their resources but recent shutdowns have pushed these establishments to provide greater virtual experiences to the public. Not sure where to start your at-home virtual art journey? Here is a list of various resources and some highlighted activities to help you navigate the sites.

Did you know that the Enoch Pratt Free Library is also home to a digital collection of rare and unique historical materials? This is a great place to start browsing images to learn about local Baltimore and Maryland history. Some featured collections include photographs taken of the Bethlehem Steel Co. Maryland between 1891 and 1962, Chicory, a magazine of poetry and art published by the Pratt Library between 1966 and 1983, and photographs from between the 1890s and the 1970s depicting the social, economic, and political lives of African American Marylanders.

Bethlehem Steel Company

ART21 is an award-winning PBS series that focuses exclusively on contemporary art and artists. Curated playlists such as the Teaching with Community and Taking a Stand playlists can be a good place to start. There is also a live broadcast channel streaming a random clip if you are feeling wild. Full episodes can be viewed on the official PBS site.

Artbound is another award-winning art series focusing on LA art and artists. Full episodes such as The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto and Artist and Mother as well as clips are available on the site.

Museum Crush and SHOW ME are UK sites that help users navigate various objects housed in UK museums. Museum Crush features stories that weave together artifacts found in different museums and SHOW ME is a family oriented site that provides games, collections, videos, stories and homework help to foster an appreciation of museums in young audiences.

Google Arts and Culture is a museum portal offering a wide range of access to museums around the world. Though not exhaustive and always up-to-date with the latest resources, it is the most thorough list online and a great starting point. You can begin locally with Baltimore’s own Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art (Click on the links to the museums’ respective pages for further exploration!), and then travel around the country or the world at will by visiting museums in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, Paris and Mexico City! You can even tour Frida Kahlo’s studio in Mexico City using Google Street View or stop by The Musée de l’Orangerie to view its critically acclaimed installation of Monet’s Water Lilies in the oval rooms. The Google Arts and Culture main site also features fun games and activities such as the Art Transfer App which allows you to transform your photos into the styles of renowned artists like van Gogh and Kandinsky.

Visiting the sites of individual art museums can also provide endless amounts of creative activities that can be done in the comfort of your home. Here is a list of some examples:

  • There is a wide array of virtual programs being offered on a daily basis at the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA (MOCA). Watch what artists are doing at home and at their studios during the shutdown or join the reading discussions centered around art-related texts!
  • Travel virtually all the way to Mumbai, India and explore the Sarmaya Arts Foundation, the nation’s first ever digital archive. 
  • Tate Britain’s Create Like an Artist tutorials are for both kids and adults and provide guidance on painting, printing and collage, textile, sculpture, and more. 
  • The Chez Baldwin online exhibition by the National Museum of African American History and Culture demonstrates how the places that James Baldwin chose as home affected the trajectory of his life.
  • Like the work of its eponymous painter, the Dali Theatre-Museum is a surreal experience. You can tour the theatre-museum virtually in its entirety. 

Exhausted your collection of coloring sheets weeks ago? Color our Collections provides free coloring sheets donated from the collections of libraries, archives and other cultural institutions. You can find coloring pages filled with illustrations of real and mythological creatures, botanical illustrations, and historical engravings.

If you are working on a creative project and need some reference materials, Sketchfab provides over 3 million 3d models that can be downloaded with purchase. However, viewing the models is free and is a great resource for drawing references!

For even further exploration, here are two extensive lists of virtual museum resources: