Wignall Museum Adapts to World of COVID-19

June 12, 2020

Wignall Museum staffers pose in the museum.

Rebecca Trawick and her department had been preparing for the annual “Student Invitational” art exhibition in March when the coronavirus turned life upside down. 

Students expected to bring large installations, paintings, graphic designs, ceramics and more to the museum to proudly show people their work in person. 

And then, “in person” became impossible. 

“We knew about COVID of course, but admittedly it didn’t cross my mind that we’d shut down for such a long time,” said Trawick, museum director. 

Some students’ ceramic works became trapped on a campus they couldn’t access. Other students had to use their homes as makeshift studios to complete paintings. 

But despite the challenges, the shift to online gave artists a realization that the virtual world provides a new way to showcase art and exposes them to a larger audience. It also showed students how to be versatile in the face of challenging circumstances. 

“Artists need to know how to share their work using contemporary tools and recognizing contemporary behaviors,” said Assistant Curator Roman Stollenwerk. 

Graphic design student Dariia Zamrii had planned to present an art installation – complete with two 12-foot walls folding inward. The installation, called “Uniquely Identical” served as an illustration of the conformity she faced at every turn during her childhood in Russia. Her designs include architectural floorplans from six elementary schools she attended and photos of herself and her twin sister wearing identical outfits. 

Had there been more time to prepare, Zamrii – who has a background in web design - said she would have turned her art installation into a website. It’s a lesson she plans to keep in mind for her next exhibition. 

“We have this interaction in the gallery – you can feel the texture and see the details, but with this transition, we need to adapt to find new ways to interact with the viewer,” she said. 

When in-person exhibitions resume, Trawick says she hopes to continue offering online galleries to expand the reach of Chaffey’s visual arts events. 

The Wignall Museum will host a series of virtual programs including artist talks, studio visits, tutorials and more through its “Wignall Home Edition,” taking place from September through December.