In uncertain times of panic like these, art is a great form of escapism. Sometimes diving into a visual masterpiece that somebody else has created is exactly what you need to distract yourself from the fact that the people around you are dropping like flies. However, with museums closed and an inescapable sense of impending doom around every corner, the arts world is feeling more and more out of reach. A website, such as Seattle Art Museum’s Stay Home with SAM, is an excellent way to make art accessible to the quarantined masses.
Don’t visit the website expecting a museum experience translated onto your screen. It’s more of an extension of SAM’s blog than a digital museum, but that doesn’t stop the art from being beautifully captivating. When you first visit the Stay Home with SAM website, you are greeted with the “Object of the Week”. My first visit featured the “Magnolia Blossom,” an eye-catching black and white close-up photograph of a flower.
Sure, flowers are nice, but when I checked the website the next week, the new object of the week immediately grabbed my attention. It was a collection of concrete blocks, each with radio antennae extending up to the sky. The sculpture, titled “Weltempfänger” by German artist Isa Genzken was fascinating in itself, but the article written about these strange concrete radios provided much more insight into the meaning behind the bizarre concrete radios than just taking a peek at them in a museum would have. “Although silent, the antennae appear deliberately and mysteriously tuned at slight angles; they must be picking up something. Can’t we hear it, or are we not listening––or looking––hard enough?” the article says. The piece was captivating. This sentence put what I originally thought were just a couple whimsical cement radios into a bizarre and uncanny context, something that, without an entire article to accompany it, a run of the mill museum exhibit could not have done."
You can view other exhibits and explore different topics by clicking the “tags” on the right of the screen. The website is a little difficult to navigate, but not impossible, and the well-written articles and brilliant content makes up for the few design flaws (such as the strange formatting of some articles).
SAM’s website is a fascinating, but a completely different experience from actually visiting the museum in person. Even in an non-quarantined world, having the time and money to go out and see art in person is a luxury that simply isn't accessible to most. By making a museum’s worth of art available at the click of a button, websites like Stay Home with SAM are a fantastic baby step into making visual art available to the general public.
I truly hope that SAM maintains the Stay Home with SAM website and continues to update it even after the stay-at-home order is lifted. The current pandemic is changing the art world in ways that no one could possibly have imagined pre-quarantine. While it’s undeniably a sad thing that so many artists and arts organizations are suffering because of it, this crisis is also creating positive changes, such as increasing accessibility to artwork.
The world is changing, and the art scene is changing with it—for better and for worse. I strongly believe Stay Home with SAM is one of the things changing for the better, and I highly encourage other arts organizations to follow in their footsteps.
Stay Home with SAM is available to view and explore online right here.