The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art was forced to close its doors when Auburn University did. However, the museum isn’t quite ready to give up serving the public yet.

Its exhibits are heading online for virtual viewing.

“We closed to the public per alignment with the university,” said Cindi Malinick, the museum’s director and chief curator. “And what that meant was, a host of programatic events, public and private [were canceled].”

Speaker engagements were canceled and exhibition openings were postponed, but the museum began working on allowing the public to view exhibits online, she said.

“We’re also looking at other kinds of ways to connect. Our education team is working on pulling together some online activities for teachers, for them to continue to connect with their students,” Malinick said.

Museum connections

Additionally, Jule Collins Smith has been able to partner with other museums across the country, and even internationally, said Charlotte Hendrix, communications and marketing specialist.

#museumfromhome is a popular hashtag that’s being used for online exhibits and museum aspects, Hendrix said.

“Many museums are contributing to the online dialogue because this is one way that we can sort of go beyond our walls,” she said.

“Of course we always want an in-person visit because that’s going to be a meaningful experience with art, but what we’re trying to do as best we can is to translate that to the digital space.”

The front page of the Jule Collins Smith Museum website (http://jcsm.auburn.edu) has two pages.

The first shares the news that the museum is closed to the public, but the next asks viewers to “Explore Our Digital Exhibition: ‘From Her Innermost Self Visionary Art of Southern Women.’”

The online tour is easy to follow. Information is provided about the exhibition, with images to click on and learn more about.

“Museums everywhere have been examining how to connect with communities that have not traditionally been walking through the doors,” Malinick said. “The whole world, this pandemic has set everyone really rethinking not only their day to day operations but some core values.

“And a core value for this museum and the university in particular, related to its land-grant legacy is to connect with rural populations. So it’s a privilege to be able to work in this regard.”

One major exhibit that the museum was working on involved showcasing art by women and exhibits curated by women in accordance with the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage.

“We, along with, museums and other cultural institutions across the nation have focused our exhibitions on women,” Malinick said.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is running a campaign to support women artists, an instagram hashtag, #fivewomenartists.

The Jule Collins Smith Museum has joined the movement, Malinick said, and has posted their art online, with information.

“We’re going to continue to focus on that theme in particular this year, again to continue on to celebrate this achievement by women and to elevate all the art in our collection by women,” she said.

Outdoor offerings

The museum has several outdoor pieces that Hendrix encouraged Auburn residents to check out while the indoor exhibits are closed. Last week, many walkers and joggers could be seen around the museum’s perimeter.

There are 15 sculptures around the grounds, she said, some that are interactive as well.

“In coming out, consider the recommendations of the health experts,” Hendrix said. “But it is something that, people are looking for ways to remain active and it’s a beautiful setting to find some serenity in these trying times.

“We just want to encourage everyone to remain safe.”

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