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:

Imagine Your Story, Part 7: Reviews from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Whitney J. on They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall: They All Fall Down is a book that makes one wish Mom was still alive. I needed someone to tell me that it was time to turn out the lights. I knew before I started that all the players would be gone by the end of the story, but I certainly didn’t see the last death coming! It’s also very funny in places. I really enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down!

They All Fall Down
by Rachel Howzell Hall

George H. on Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum: Incredibly helpful for those looking to get started in literary publishing. Maum collects the wisdom of many authors and highlights aspects of publishing that often aren’t talked about in books like this.

Before and After The Book Deal
by Courtney Maum

Laura R. on The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: A fun little book for book people and bookstore lovers. Lighthearted and at times serious. Just enough character development to enjoy the people of this small town and their relationships and how books weave throughout their stories.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Cheryl D. on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Delightful, Fun and a quick read despite its size (530 pages.) This is a very different style book with many full page original drawings (which fill many pages so you fly through the 500+ pages.) I selected this book from the online catalog for my second graders but didn’t realize it was over 500 pages until I picked it up. I almost put it directly into the return box but figured I should give it a try. I am so happy that I did! I do not like reading fiction so I was delighted to find this story based on nonfiction historically accurate people and places. Set in 1930s Paris, you learn of the city and early film! Give this book a try!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.

Great Picture Books in Overdrive

by Heather Yost, Librarian

An African Alphabet, by Eric Walters

This brightly colored alphabet book is a great way for a child to learn their  ABCs and introduce them to animals they may not be familiar with. There are lions, zebras, giraffes, okapi, and so much more. Additionally, this book would create a great opportunity to talk about what sounds the animals make, and for those lesser-known animals, it could be a fun search to find those sounds. There is also a “Read-Along” version, so you don’t have to worry about pronouncing animals such as “Yellow-Spotted Rock Hyrax” correctly. This would be a great choice for babies and toddlers, but all ages can have fun learning about different types of animals.

An African Alphabet
by Eric Walters
Early literacy tip: Sing the alphabet song together. Then, try to sing it very fast and then try to sing it very slow. This will help children learn about letters, and if you sing it while reading the book, they can start to recognize what the printed letter sounds like.

Lola Loves Stories, by Anna McQuinn

This fun picture book celebrates books and imagination. Lola checks out many books at the library and then uses her imagination to bring them to life. For example, one night she reads a book about a “fierce tiger” and then pretends to chase her friend through the jungle like a tiger. Playing pretend allows a child to be creative and imagine the world around them. During this time when children might be stuck inside and not able to see their friends, books can be a great way to inspire their creativity and to have fun. This book is great for Pre-K children.

Lola Loves Stories
by Anna McQuinn
Early literacy tip: Lola and her caregivers select books and read together. Taking the time to create a routine to put reading regularly into your schedule is important to help expose children to books and encourage a love of reading.

Everywhere, Wonder, by Matthew Swanson

This beautifully illustrated picture book is Enoch Pratt Free Library’s selection for 2020’s Imagination Celebration. While we had to postpone these system-wide events for now, audiences can read this book and admire the illustrations. The little boy in the book uses his imagination to journey all over the world. He visits Japan, Egypt, Brazil, and even under the sea and the moon! Encouraging children to use their imagination is a great way for them to think about the world around them. This book could also spark a child to want to learn more about other places around the world. Pre-K and Kindergarten children could really enjoy this book, but all ages will appreciate the artwork.

Everywhere, Wonder
by Matthew Swanson and
illustrated by Robbi Behr
Early literacy tip: Play a game where you pretend that you’re seeing different parts of the world. Talk about what you would see, smell, hear, eat, and feel in these places. You’re encouraging children to think about the world around them and possibly learn new words that they would not necessarily experience every day where they live.

Imagine Your Story, Part 6: Reviews from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Kathryn L. on Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: An unexpected delight. Much like the titular bookstore and its enigmatic shopkeeper, this book and its expansive perspective on knowledge both digital and analog will make you think, laugh, and cry in equal measure. With a winning narrator and a colorful cast of characters, this is a summer read that is as much action-adventure as it is technological meditation without ever relinquishing its central preoccupation with the importance of and delight in freedom of knowledge.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Jaimie R. on Solaris by Stanislaw Lem: Russian sci-fi, depicting an excursion to the planet Solaris in which the laws of physics and reality are bent into a confounding, yet curiously miraculous, alternative reality. Very well-written and easily digestible (unlike other Russian sci-fi!).

by Stanislaw Lem

Lauren S. on The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer: I’m a big fan of history, but I sometimes struggle to get through nonfiction on certain periods, including the Revolutionary War, because they can be dry, boring, and rife with facts I already knew. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was none of those things. I loved that the chapters were short which kept the plot moving and made the information digestible. The cherry on top was the intrigue and mystery around the secret plot, how it was uncovered, and the contributions that made to the intelligence tactics we use today. I highly recommend for fellow history nerds!

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington
Brad Meltzer

Allie P. on The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: Bennett’s second novel is getting tons of praise and it is well-deserved. I couldn’t put this book down. Bennett tells a moving story about family and lives we make for ourselves. Each character is written with empathy and care.

The Vanishing Half
by Brit Bennett

Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.

Kanopy for Captive Audiences

by Tom Warner, Best & Next Department

In these days of pandemic anxiety, when social distancing has most of us holed-up at home with cabin fever and too much time on our hands, it’s a great time to take advantage of your library card to use Kanopy, Pratt’s free streaming resource for cinema lovers, to borrow digital movies, television shows, documentaries and foreign films. Digital streaming enables all of us to safely watch movies from the comfort of our home; and, best of all, these “viral videos” don’t require us to touch or wipe off a Redbox or store-bought DVD.

Kanopy takes its name from “canopy,” which in ecology is a layer of something that spreads out and covers an area, like the thousands of branches and leaves that spread out at the top of trees in a forest. Likewise, Kanopy’s catalog is so vast (over 30,000 titles!), that it is easy to “miss the forest for the trees.” So, we’ve put together this guide to help you discover some of the best content in the collection.

Unlike most streaming platforms that stockpile popular mainstream fare, Kanopy offers a diverse and carefully curated selection of important classic and contemporary cinema from around the world, including 50 titles from the esteemed Criterion Collection – from Fellini’s 8 ½ to Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. (Personal fave: Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1950 debut, Story of a Love Affair, starring the luminous Lucia Bose in the director’s most narrative-structured film.) What makes Criterion “art house” movies so special? Criterion pioneered the correct aspect ratio letterboxing presentation of movies, as well as commentary soundtracks, multi-disc sets, special editions, and remastered versions. Watching these films is like taking a class in the history of film itself.

And speaking of film history, Kanopy offers The Story of Film: An Odyssey, a 15-episode journey through the history of world cinema, from the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century up through the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st. Narrated by film historian Mark Cousins (based on his book of the same title), this acclaimed series is filled with vintage clips from some of the greatest movies ever made and features interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors, including Stanley Donen, Wim Wenders, Lars von Trier and Abbas Kiarostami.

Long before Spike Lee, John Singleton, Jordan Peele, and Ava DuVernay took mainstream Hollywood by storm, African-American cinema had its humble roots in the “race films” that flourished from the 1920s-1940s. These films not only starred African-Americans but were funded, written, produced, directed, distributed, and often exhibited by people of color. Entrepreneurial filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux (Within Our Gates, Body and Soul) not only built an industry apart from the Hollywood establishment, they cultivated visual and narrative styles that were uniquely their own. The 17 films represented in the Pioneers of African-American Cinema collection highlight the legacy, innovation and artistry of Micheaux, Spencer Williams, Paul Robeson and countless others in newly restored versions of these historically important films.

If you like objective documentaries, Kanopy has 42 titles by renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman, from his controversial debut, Titicut Follies (1967), to his latest,Monrovia, Indiana(2018); librarians and library-lovers will no doubt be drawn to 2017’s 3 1/4-hour opus Ex Libris: New York Public Library. As a filmmaker, Wiseman is an “observational” fly-on-the-wall purist who avoids voiceovers, soundtrack music or any hint of subjective editing; his films are chiefly studies of American social institutions, such as hospitals, high schools, prisons – and libraries! Wiseman formerly only sold his films directly to institutions on video and DVD, making them hard to find by consumers and prohibitively expensive to add to public library collections. World-wide digital access to his films makes this one the best deals imaginable for library patrons!

Named after the business center of the British film industry during the silent film era, distributor Flicker Alley specializes in rare early U.S. and foreign silent films, as well as classic, experimental and independent cinema. Kanopy has over 180 Flicker Alley titles, ranging from Georges Melies’ A Trip To the Moon (1902) and Robert Flaherty’s documentary-pioneering Nanook of the North (1922) to lost Film Noirs like No Time for Tears (1949). Of particular interest are silent classics like Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Move Camera (1929, with musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra) and the newly restored The Lost World (1925), a story of living dinosaurs from the Jurassic Age written by the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that laid the groundwork for future films like King Kong, Jurassic Park, and Godzilla.

Local Documentaries

Kanopy enables you to create your own Maryland Film Festival at home by watching these “locally-sourced” films by or about Maryland people or institutions.

  • Jeffrey Schwartz’s I Am Divine (2013) chronicles the career of John Waters’s most famous underground star, Glenn Milstead (better known as “Divine”), who was on the brink of mainstream success before tragically passing away in 1988. 
  • Theo Anthony’s Rat Film (2017) uses rats as a passageway into the dark, complicated history of Baltimore. 
  • Maryland Institute College of Art grad Lofty Nathan’s 12 O’clock Boys (2013) follows the exploits of a notorious West Baltimore dirt bike pack as they pop wheelies, weave at excessive speeds through traffic, and outrun the police, as seen through the eyes of an impressional adolescent. 
  • Baltimore native Richard Chisolm’s Cafeteria Man ( 2011) takes a behind-the-scenes look at Tony Geraci’s sweeping, tenacious efforts to kick start school lunch reform in Baltimore’s schools, a large urban district that serves 83,000 students, and later in Memphis schools, with 200,000 kids. 
  • Lynne Sachs’ Investigation of a Flame (2001) is an intimate portrait of the Catonsville Nine, a band of activists led by priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan,who in May 1968 burned selective service records in a defiant protest against the Vietnam War.

Cult Movies

If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, Kanopy also has a surprising number of cult and exploitation movies in its collection. Before you see Eddie Murphy’s remake, you may want to see Rudy Ray Moore in the original Dolemite (1975). Or how about Oscar-winner Francis Ford Coppola showing signs of the directing promise to come in his 1963 horror film Dementia 13 (1963). Before he made Easy Rider, a young Dennis Hopper was falling in love with an alluring but dangerous mermaid in Curtis Harrington’s hauntingly stylish Night Tide (1961). We’re also big fans of Jess Franco’s gothic mad scientist tale The Awful Dr. Orlac (1962), Herk Harvey’s Twilight Zone-eerie Carnival of Souls (1962) and the madcap martial arts mayhem of The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) and Kung Fu Zombie (1981). These are but a few of the low-budget sci-fi, horror, fantasy and drive-in gems waiting to be discovered here.

And, of course, Kanopy caters to more mainstream tastes with extensive lists of Independent,Classic, LBGTQ and World Cinema, as well as Sundance Film Festival Favorites, here, Short Films and Staff Picks. Libraries and movie theaters may be closed at the moment, but Kanopy enables you to bring their content home to enjoy for free on your computer, television or mobile device. Time to grab your library card and start watching!