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MAKING WAVES: What Happens to an Art Collection During a Pandemic?

April 10, 2020 | Allyson Hitte | Press Room, Press Room/Blog

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The mission of the Monterey Museum of Art is to cultivate curiosity in the visual arts and engage community with the diversity of California Art – past, present, and future.  If you’ve been following us digitally, you know that we are working harder than ever to bring the excitement and diversity of California art to you in the safety of your own home. But what exactly does that look like behind the scenes? This week on MAKING WAVES, we caught up with John Rexine, Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, to see what he and his team have been working on during our Shelter in Place order.


What happens to the collection when everyone is working remotely?


Well first of all not everyone is working remotely.  My team member has been deemed essential and has been at the Museum each day caring for the collection.  That includes doing gallery checks and walk throughs, inventorying and consolidating artwork in storage, updating location records and maintaining exhibitions and exhibition furniture (patching, painting, etc). We’re also working alongside our facilities team to make sure the Museum is properly and safely cleaned and sanitized from top to bottom.


What happens to the exhibition schedule with so much unknown about the future?


Unfortunately, we have had to cancel and postpone several upcoming shows.  We are remaining optimistic though and remain in contact with artists who are all remaining flexible. Instead we’re focusing our efforts on moving our exhibitions to a digital platform rather than a physical show. For instance, you can now take a virtual tour of “The Ripple Effect: The Art of Education” narrated by artist Robynn Smith on our website.


What happens next? How are you preparing for a post-COVID-19 museum?


Our efforts to continue exhibitions and expand the collection have not stopped.  While we’ve had to adjust our approach, we are still actively planning upcoming exhibitions.  Since traveling exhibitions may be more difficult in an immediate post-COVID world, we’ve been focused on mining our collection to display works that haven’t been seen in years, if ever.  Like most museums, we can only display a small percentage of our collection at a time.  We also continue to research new acquisitions to add to our permanent collection.  Many people don’t realize that the funds for acquisitions are a completely separate account and can only be used for that purpose – therefore we can and must carefully continue filling gaps in our collection through gifts and purchases, even when our general operating funds are greatly reduced due to the pandemic.



To learn more about our digital outreach efforts, visit montereyart.org/exhibitions or follow us on social media @montereyart