Online Engagement – Embracing Digital

Mindful Art – online ‘Hirameki’ collaborative digital drawing

Blog digital exhibition (December 2021)

This time last year in the UK we were getting ready for Christmas, albeit, a different type. A Christmas only with your own household or support bubble. By the time 4th January 2021 came around, it became clear that we were going into another lockdown. Yet again, the instruction was to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. 

It was quite a shock to realise that this virus was not going away and the general public had to find the resolve within them to help stop the spread. Yet again, schools, places of worship and museums closed their doors to the public.

The GoMA Learning Team made the decision that while venues were closed, we would move our programmes online. The 3 programmes we focussed on were:

Creative Parents A relaxed session aimed at parents with young babies, helping connections between young families.

Mindful Art A creative session aimed at adults exploring creativity in a mindful way.

Saturday Art Club Our popular and long running Saturday morning session aimed at families with children aged 5-12.

It was a learning curve getting to grips with the technology, designing sessions that were engaging, creative and interesting and getting the message out to the public.

Instagram proved to be a very effective tool for this due to its high visual impact. We were also very pleased to make it to 10,000 followers in April 2021! This had the added benefit of having a link to our Eventbrite page in the ‘bio’ (taking interested parties straight to the bookings page). 

GoMA’s Instagram push to reach 10,000 followers

Having had limited use of ‘online engagement’ platforms, a whole new world opened up! From Zoom to Google Meet, Webex and Teams, the overall list to choose from is even larger! With names like Talky, Jami and Toasty there are many Virtual Meeting Platforms. For our online programme, we opted to use ‘Webex’. We quickly became accustomed to the many different features and found that it worked well to share images of artwork, videos or music. Another feature we were excited to find was the ‘annotate’ button, this allowed one or all of us to draw simultaneously on the screen with sometimes really fantastic results! These images could be saved using the simple screenshot function on the computer.

A successful example of this was to encourage ‘Mindful Art’ participants to draw what they saw in the clouds collaboratively on screen. Hirameki is actually a thing! A very mindful way of letting your mind draw what you see in blobs of ink or here in this case – the clouds. It was also a good way to get participants thinking of the last sculpture that they saw, or for the Saturday Art Club children to think what 3 things they would save from planet earth for future generations?

We made sure to have fun as well as to inform and inspire participants with images of artwork in the collections and on display in GoMA. One of the Saturday Art Club’s favourite sculptures has always been the colourful Paolozzi in Gallery 2. Using a simple online drawing programme, we drew the basic outline shape and let everyone decorate it as they pleased.

The negative parts to such online engagement would certainly be that it was not ‘face-to-face’. It could be difficult to see whether people were understanding or even enjoying the session. We would make use of the ‘chat’ function, or ‘emojis’ to take a quick check if people were following and understanding. Some people could be shy on camera and not turn their camera on, or not engage with the session. Although, if people just wanted to listen in and not do the art activity, then that was also ok, perhaps people just wanted to connect with others.

The pandemic has shown that we have had to adapt very quickly to changing situations. Moving programmes online allowed us to continue our public engagement as we knew how difficult going through lockdowns and the rollercoaster timescale of the pandemic was for people. Some people made us aware of how isolated, sad, bored or acutely lonely that they were and that taking part in these online sessions was a good way to connect with others, switch off and use art and creativity to take your mind elsewhere. Trying to focus upon the positive and not the negative.

‘Mindful Art’ session ‘word cloud’ related to the Coronavirus pandemic

The very positive outcome of these online sessions was that the physicality of the museum was no longer there. People came together from all over the world to take part in the sessions. From Birmingham, Cathcart, California, London, Maryhill and Ukraine! to name a few of the places. It was a very positive thing to come together to discuss issues such as climate change or Coronovirus, we realised that it does not matter what part of the world you are from, these things can affect all of us in very similar ways.

Thanks to all our online participants to wherever they may be. We look forward to meeting with many of you all again face-to-face, however, we would like to take what we have learned regarding online engagement and build upon this for the future.

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