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Bowers Museum Provides Hunger Relief, Virtual Online Programming

THE BOWERS MUSEUM recently took a part in pandemic relief efforts by donating free meals, groceries and art kits to the community.

 

BY LAURIE HANSON • December 19, 2020

For the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana the powers of art provide healing and solace even in these trying times.

Though the museum is closed for now, they have creatively implemented hunger relief and gone virtual online to serve others during the pandemic. Their efforts include having provided 23,193 meals to frontline medical and emergency personnel, low-income children, families, seniors and the homeless. Additionally, they also provided 1,148 bags of groceries and 1,527 art kits to low-income children and seniors. In 2021, the museum plans to offer free groceries to their low-income afterschool families from Santa Ana.

“These efforts are important to us for many reasons, including supporting our community,” said V.P. of Programs and Collections Victoria Gerard, who started as a volunteer with the Bowers Museum 10 years ago. “2020 has been challenging for everyone, the Bowers Museum included.”

During the first stay-at-home orders in March, the museum immediately launched “Bowers at Home,” with an online platform including weekly multi-lingual art lessons and instructional videos for children and/or families, free lectures, art projects for seniors, and virtual exhibitions.

“The vision for this portal was to provide free programming that could spark joy and combat isolation during such uncertain times,” Gerard said. She believes art, culture and history are crucial parts of one’s life. Through this, she values the preservation of the past while desiring to make it relevant to current situations. It is with this and more that Gerard believes in her work.

“Art can heal, and history can inspire,” she explained. “Culture places you within a larger human story. Now more than ever, I think museums have a role to play in fostering togetherness and creative thinking.”   

In addition to “Bowers at Home,” the museum now offers a virtual program schedule featuring fun and compelling information about their collections, exhibitions, greater overall community, and mission. Three virtual tours led by their Docent Guild members are offered every week with themes rotating bimonthly.

“I am so proud of how our Bowers team adapted to the trying circumstances of 2020,” Gerard said. “While transitioning to virtual platforms is new and can present challenges, it has also had many positive side effects.”

Among the effects are how the museum can share content with people outside of Southern California and into the greater world. It is Gerard’s hope they can continue leveraging their technology to increase greater access to the museum in the future.

Though the museum has been closed now for 9 months and counting due to COVID-19, they look at this year with pride while having hope for the next one. They recently received awards for Best Museum in Orange County by both the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register.

They also received one of the highest national recognition awards after a rigorous review and inspection by the American Alliance of Museums. It is given only to the top 3 percent of all museums in the country.

“The Bowers is humbled and grateful by the outpouring of support that has allowed the museum to adapt and continue to serve the community, despite what sometimes seemed insurmountable obstacles,” Gerard said.

The Bowers Museum first opened its doors in 1936, located on the homestead of founders Charles and Ada Bowers. They bequeathed the land to the City of Santa Ana so that a museum could be established within Orange County. Since that time, the museum has grown and preserves local history in its effort to bring Orange County to the world. Their mission is to enrich lives through the world’s finest arts and cultures via their exhibitions, collections, and programming, according to Gerard.

As part of that commitment, they are now offering a free monthly virtual family festival streamed live on Facebook. It includes entertainment, art projects and a recipe. Also, two featured exhibitions are available for viewing in addition to their permanent galleries. The exhibitions are Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic and

Treasures in Gold & Jade: Masterworks from Taiwan. Both have digital online guides available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

Furthermore, in their support of education, the Bowers offers virtual school tours for classes and small educational groups, with scholarship funding available. By the end of the week, they will have five digital educator resource guides freely accessible on their website with three more guides to be released in the coming month, according to Gerard.

With the Bowers at Home portal serving as a “one-stop webpage,” the museum offers easily accessible links to all their free online programming. There the public will find videos and audios of past lecturers, exhibitions on YouTube, and art lessons from Kidseum. Also offered are a variety of ticketed programs featuring premier virtual lecturers, artist talks, panel discussions and gallery tours. Arrangements for art kits pickups can also be made.

Coming up in 2021 is the museum’s First Annual Chocolate Week from Jan. 26 to Jan. 31. It is kicked off with daily virtual programs and culminates with a chocolate-themed virtual family festival. Hosted in partnership with ‘LA’s Chocolate Guru,’ Dr. Lee Theisen, it features premiere chocolate-makers from around the world.

Going on now through mid-February is the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic, extended for a second time and now running through Feb. 28. Also coming next year is Treasures in Gold & Jade running through May 30 in the Bowers’ East West Bank Gallery. It features sculptures from two of Taiwan’s premier artists, Wu Ching and Huang Fu-shou. Gerard said the most effective way to help is by giving a donation of any amount. Currently, their Board of Governors are matching all gifts up to $50,000. “We’re encouraging our supporters to donate before Dec. 31, 2020 to help the Bowers raise an unprecedented $100,000 for our end of year appeal, and ensure a stable 2021 for the museum,” she said. For more information on how to give, please visit their website at www.bowers.org.

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