On March 13th 2020, like so many schools and businesses, The Andy Warhol Museum shut its doors and sent staff home for what we thought would be a two week closure in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This unexpected and unprecedented disruption took a particular toll on the museum’s learning department. Our work has always revolved around bringing people and art together. We found ourselves reeling from having to cancel dozens of programs during our busiest time of the year, from small group gallery tours to huge annual events, our staff separated from our audiences and each other.
At The Warhol, we’ve always had a strong focus on hands-on learning. With museums and schools closed and families stuck from home, how could we stay connected and nurture the sense of playful experimentation and creative expression that can come from making art? The pandemic not only gave us permission to experiment– it demanded it. Our first attempt was a series of short DIY instructional videos created by our educators at home during lockdown, highlighting Warhol-inspired art projects using everyday materials. We released our first video in March 2020, just a couple weeks after our closure. We have now produced over 20 films highlighting accessible artmaking techniques, from bookmaking and pop up cards to potato stamping and mail art. The Making It Video series quickly became popular on social media, garnering thousands of views, likes, and shares on Facebook and YouTube. To date the Making It Videos have received over 200,000 views online across multiple platforms, and were honored with an award as one of the Best International Digital Activities of 2020 by UK-based Kids in Museums. We have continued to produce and distribute these free artmaking videos and they have anchored the expansion of our internal digital media production.
At The Warhol, learning by doing is one of our core values, and we believe that the museum should be a place for growth and experimentation. In producing the Making It videos we took this heart– our team of Artist Educators, working in isolation from home, pushed themselves to learn new skills and step out of their comfort zones. Creating the videos demanded a playful sense of innovation and a willingness to take risks. Our educators grew inspired by the challenge and used the videos as a portal for connecting with learners far and wide. We learned to make ink from instant coffee, fashioned silkscreen mesh from old pantyhose, and made prints using shaving cream. We received glowing feedback from teachers using the videos with students learning from home, families who used them to occupy kids, and adults who appreciated their easy-to-follow prompts.
As the pandemic wore on and lockdown lifted, we have continued to produce videos and engaged additional staff as creators. We also invested in capacity building– training, equipment, software, and branding to improve production values and better enable us to use media to engage audiences, tell stories, and spark creativity.