Julieane Frost is the Senior Marketing Manager of the Worcester Art Museum, or “WAM.” For nearly 125 years, Frost says, WAM has been a “cultural cornerstone of the Worcester community,” serving children, adults, and students of all ages and backgrounds. Making use of its unique collections, the Museum creates programs and exhibitions which connect their audience with, “inspiring art that demonstrate its enduring relevance to daily life.”
Frost says WAM is proud to share access to the benefits of the arts with many local organizations. For example, with Head Start at-risk children have the opportunity for, “art exploration and experiences that help them develop critical thinking and observation skills.” Through the Clemente Program, adults from disadvantaged backgrounds access a tuition-free way to earn college credit and develop the skills and confidence to express themselves as they learn about literature, art history, moral philosophy, American history, and writing during an 8-month program at the Museum. WAM is also partnered with Open Door Arts, an affiliate of the Seven Hills Foundation, improving accessibility to disabled artists and patrons in the Museum. Beyond the opportunity to appreciate existing art, WAM offers studio classes in a wide range of traditional and new art skills and mediums. “Many people who have had successful careers in art got their start by taking art classes at WAM,” Frost noted, adding that WAM funds scholarships for about 25% of its students thanks to the generosity of several donors and local foundations.
When COVID-19 forced closure of non-essential businesses in March of 2020, WAM had to rethink its operations, postponing its spring exhibitions to the fall, and moving all art content and experiences online. WAM is actively expanding its online programs and activities, which include story time and art making for young children, artist spotlights, virtual tours, art challenges, online art classes, articles from docents and curators which examine specific works and collections, and more. “Like every other cultural organization, we are experimenting with new ideas and listening to our audiences to see how we can continue to achieve our mission even though the galleries are closed,” Frost said.
As the Museum considers its strategies going forward, Julieane says public input will be critical to finding the best path forward. “We need feedback from our community as to what kinds of digital content they would like to see from the Museum – in what type of virtual experiences would they truly participate? That data would be very helpful for us to plan and meet the needs of our audiences – from families with young children to educators to adults who miss the social experience of visiting the Museum.” WAM is also considering how to reopen its physical space in a way which ensures visitors feel comfortable and safe. Feedback on both the digital and physical spaces are welcomed at PR@WorcesterArt.org.
Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented to WAM and the arts community, Julieane and the Museum leadership have remained optimistic and thankful. “We are so very grateful for our city’s leadership and our community’s support during this challenging time – and for those who have continued to generously contribute to the Museum – our members, donors, sponsors, and foundations. This trust and support have allowed us to continue to fulfill our mission of ‘connecting people, communities, and cultures via the experience of art,’ while we are closed and to look forward to a hopeful future.”
Learn more about the Worcester Art Museum on their website, by following them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr, and take in the Museum’s galleries, activities, services, and more through their Stay Connected page.