09 May 2020


Visual Art

By Houghton Kinsman

Scroll to the bottom for self-guided, slow-looking exercise that incorporates our Google Arts & Culture page.

I can’t believe it’s already May. Moreover, I cannot believe we are moving into our second full month of Crocker from Home programming. Looking back, April was a rollercoaster of excitement, stress, despondency and, eventually, fulfilment. It’s been invigorating to face the challenge of transforming physical museum programming into digital and virtual experiences and I am looking forward to a new month of live experimentation — especially with Art + Wellness.

As we move ahead, I encourage you all to spend some time revisiting the month of April. One of the shortcomings of in-person programming is that once the event ends, if it hasn’t been recorded, it ceases to exist but in the memories of those who attended. Working online means programs can be accessed repeatedly over time.

The Crocker’s blog, The Oculus, is a good place to start. Here, you’ll find posts featuring many of our Thursday Nights In offerings. Then wander over to our YouTube page or your preferred social media platform for more content. Be sure to like or follow us for the latest updates. Here are some of my highlights:

Walkthrough, Gallery 308

  • Our virtual gallery walkthroughs.
  • For those with little ones at home: Kids Create, hosted by educator Crystal Ruiz. (In Spanish here.)
  • And if you are looking for something sweet inspiration to view on Mother’s Day: Our Message for Mom series, with Facilities Manager Jim Gray — who is keeping watch, lock and key, over the museum while we all shelter in place

It is fascinating viewing all of these experiences, and the Museum’s programming philosophy, through the prism of the Internet. Art + Technology is a sector of programming that is growing steadily amongst art museums, galleries and cultural institutions in the 21st century: The steady roll out of ArtLab-styled incubators for research, digital project commissions, exhibitions, and hosting platforms will only be accelerated on by this heightened virtual experimentation during the current pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, I keep returning to questions like: What could or should this type of project, at the intersection of art and technology, look like at the Crocker? How would it be structured? What projects would we pursue? Which artists could we work with? What is certain though, moving into a “new normal”, those of us working in education at the Museum will be left with a raft of experimental digital content and ideas we never got to explore. Figuring out how to pursue them in relation to renewed physical, in-person programming promises yet another tantalizing adventure, which brings us back to our Art + Wellness project in the digital sphere.

What is Art Rx?

Art Rx

For the month of May, where live, real-time experiences are now highlighted every Thursday Night on Facebook, YouTube, and occasionally, Zoom, I have thought a lot about how to translate the philosophy of Art Rx online.

Art Rx is one of the Museum’s marquee Art + Wellness programs. It uses art appreciation to help address chronic pain experienced by program participants. Built around the ideas of slow looking and dialogue, the program plug is simple: Register online or via phone, then visit the Crocker — for free — and join in on a group discussion and an hour-long look at two paintings.

How often does one get the opportunity to push distractions to one side and spend time with an inspirational piece of creativity? When last did you have a long, undisturbed and deep listen to an important album? Or watched a classic movie in the cultural canon repeatedly to understand its various nuances? Or had these experiences facilitated by knowledgeable professionals whilst being able to share your thoughts with others?

How often does one get the opportunity to push distractions to one side and spend time with an inspirational piece of creativity?

This is the real value of Art Rx: It help us slow down, relax, be more cognizant of what we are viewing and it helps create social connections with others. Not only does this program refresh one, it calms one too and, like other Art + Wellness programs we offer, it has become necessary to provide. These types of programs are pivotal to helping us all improve our general wellbeing and are even more sought after in times like these.

Recently I saw a photo of some members of our Art + Wellness support team, the Crocker docents who do so much work to make these programs come alive. I realized how much I miss them and how much I miss being able to work with our Art Rx docents Nancy Hampton, Nancy Buening, Katherine Crow, Ellen Yamshon, Barbara Gardner, Pam Saltenberger, Burt Loehr, and Amy Garrett.

Some of the Art Rx team members have been with the program since its inception — long before I was visiting the Crocker or even Sacramento. (I am originally from South Africa, for those who haven’t detected the accent yet.) Yet the desire for the work they do remains resolute. Every second Saturday of the month I am greeted by a team of smiling faces— even though only two docents need be present to host the program for the morning. (They truly believe in what they are offering!) This is passion you cannot buy, and it is part of the reason why this program garners national interest.

The first digital Art + Wellness experience.

In addition to the role of Crocker docents, the program itself is part of a collaboration with a wider research project run by Dr Ian Koebner, Director of Integrative Pain Management at University of California, Davis Health. As the program has developed over time, discussions with Dr Koebner around the relationships between art and medicine have blossomed to a point where creativity, wellness, social interaction, pain management, and research seamlessly meld into each other. It is surreal to think we are now exploring how to integrate technology.

Three Digital, Art + Wellness Programs

The Crocker kicked off digital Art + Wellness at the Museum in April with a slow looking experience and then followed it up with a guided meditation. These two programs were well received and presented good feedback which has informed our next digital offering: an Art Rx related installment, where we return to slow looking, only this time to experiment with an activity meditated through the Crocker’s interactive Google Arts & Culture platform.

In 2018 Google staff photographed more than 80 works from the Museum’s permanent collection, with a special gigapixel camera. Since then, our Marketing department has worked steadily to format and introduce specific information to each artwork so that we can view parts of the collection in great detail online. (For more on this process, head over here.) There are also a number of online exhibitions and when I have longed for a stroll through the galleries lately, this platform has been invaluable.

While we cannot yet be in the capable hands of our Art Rx docents, and the company of fellow visitors virtually, the experience offered below takes Google Arts and Culture and combines it with elements of Art Rx. We encourage you to spend time with a work of art, see it in real detail, and then interact with us by sharing your thoughts with us on social media.

Each image on Google Arts & Culture is made of over one billion pixels, which means a single image can bring out details in artworks that are invisible to the naked eye. Good thing you can zoom in!
William Posey Silva (American, 1890-1948), “Park Sacramento”. Oil on canvas on Masonite, 12 x 15 in. Crocker Art Museum, Gift in memory of Olga Louise “Maje” Berner. ⁣

So, sit back, relax, and make the most of getting up close with the Crocker through technology!

  1. First find a comfortable place to sit, free from distractions.
  2. Jot down, download, or print the questions from this document. Keep them nearby.
  3. Head over to the Crocker collection by clicking this link.
  4. Spend a few moments browsing the collection. (There are specific online exhibitions and various highlights of the collection grouped by theme.)
  5. As you are perusing, get familiar with the interface. Practice zooming and panning using the magnifying glass and viewfinder box that appears in each artwork. (Note: the interface is different when viewing online exhibitions and requires scrolling.)
  6. Once you are comfortable with the interface, select an artwork that resonates with you.
  7. Begin your slow looking experience — use the questions you downloaded (or noted down) for guidance.

Don’t forget to share your findings with us, @crockerart on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or email the link to your friends or family and have them join along with you.

Top Image: Art Rx
About the Author: Houghton Kinsman works as the Adult Education Coordinator at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. He holds a Master of Fine Art in Art from the University of Cape Town, South Africa and has previously served as assistant to the Curator of Education at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. His writings have appeared in Art Africa, Contemporary And, Dazed and Confused, Frieze, and Artthrob.