Through our complicated history, through light and shadow, we have persevered – humanity intact.
Art is the reason.

The COVID Chronicles: What We’re Learning

Gibbes Staff Zoom

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a serious concern around the world, Gibbes staff are extremely grateful to be healthy and able to work at home at this time. Unfortunately, we did experience temporary layoffs for several of our front-of-house staff, and hope that when we are able to reopen that we can bring them back onboard. The remaining staff members have been hard at work to revise exhibition schedules, investigate new models of distance learning, apply for emergency funding, and maintain a connection with our audiences through digital engagements.

It’s been a lifeline for us to see so many of you joining in for our Illustrator Chats on Facebook or participating in our #LifeImitatesArt #MuseumChallenge on Instagram to recreate some of your favorite works of art in our Collection. We’ve enjoyed sharing studio visits with our past Visiting Artists and helping to promote ways that you can help support those in need, like our Street Party partners in the F&B industry who are struggling at this time. We’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for so many who have renewed their memberships (check out our special offers through June), shopped at the new online store, or paid forward a donation to help us stay afloat when most of our earned revenue streams are currently shut down. Thank you!

Like the rest of you, we’ve been learning a lot about how to cope in this new normal, and one silver lining is that we’ve been improving our skill sets in many areas we didn’t have time to pursue in the past. For instance, Executive Director Angela Mack is proud of her new ability to work on multiple devices and platforms all at once to keep in touch with staff and our Gibbes community far and wide. We’re sharing a few of our discoveries below in hopes that they’ll be helpful, inspirational, or maybe just provide a chuckle. We are thinking of you, and hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and are finding ways to cope during this crisis. Let us know what you’ve been learning and enjoying at home, too. We’re all in this together and we can’t wait until we can all be back together for real!

The Gibbes has been social sharing (follow @theGibbesmuseum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and blogging for many years now, and like many of you, we’ve really stepped up our game over the past month to make sure to stay connected. From Facebook and Instagram Live to Zoom calls and webinars, we’ve been putting our faces out there on screen a lot more, and figuring out how to engage in those conversations.

Illustrator Chat with Erin Banks
Erin Banks went live on Facebook, sharing her illustrations for “G is for Gibbes.

Our Creative Director Erin Banks is an extremely talented children’s book illustrator. She and her husband Tim—also a celebrated illustrator—were some of the first to jump in and participate in our Illustrator Chats. “During my quarantine,” Erin writes, “I learned how to do a book reading/drawing demo on Facebook Live with my debut video of G is for Gibbes: A Museum ABC Book. Full confession, I made a few rookie errors—my iPhone recorded the book reading in mirror-image so all of the words were flipped in the live video (sigh), the WiFi cut-off in the middle of the drawing demo so it ended mid-stream (yikes), and I accidentally posted it to the wrong place on Facebook (oops, and apologies to everyone that couldn’t find the original link!).” Despite a few minor tech hiccups, Erin’s video was still a top performer on our social media channels, getting over 774 impressions, 246 engagements, and 564 views! All in all, it was a great learning experience and now we all know how to flip a video on FaceBook Live (here’s a helpful link for anyone looking to go live the right way!).

Zinnia Willits, our director of collections and operations, has been learning A LOT about being a Zoom host—from breakout rooms, to editing video recordings, to having the controls to mute people with birds chirping loudly in the background, and praying that your internet connection holds when you have 100+ people in your meeting.
Speaking of Zoom… Zinnia has learned how to take her proven selfie skills and apply them to Zoom calls to look her best self—something we all can use help with when we are in our home offices. Just as with selfies, it’s all about lighting and angles. And in case you’re tired of your home office background, the Gibbes has created virtual backgrounds of several of our favorite Museum views that you can upload for your next call. Download your favorites here.

The Gibbes staff has been using Zoom to connect multiple times a week for conference chats and planning sessions. We’ve found it comforting to be able to see one another when we cannot be in the same place. We’re working on plans to extend these virtual meet-ups for some of our programming that we are currently unable to offer, like classroom experiences or art-themed social gatherings. Stay tuned for more details to come!

The Mystery of Brute from TheGibbesMuseum on Vimeo.

Many of our staff have taken on the challenge of creating video content for our various channels, which can be much easier said than done. Zinnia has been going into the Museum somewhat regularly to check on the building and Collection, and has been recording a series of video shorts in storage and the galleries. “These quick behind-the-scenes tours look easy, but they take many, MANY tries,” she says. “Props to those who can just set up a camera and talk effortlessly in one take (maybe one day I’ll share a bloopers reel). I have definitely learned a few tricks about how to position/set up my phone when it’s just me making a video, because prior to this time period I don’t think I have ever made a video of myself.” She recommends reversing the camera (aka selfie-mode) on your phone so that you can visualize the composition of the full shot and make sure it’s positioned at the right height. It is ideal to be filmed straight on, not from an up or down angle. If you are by yourself this takes some creativity—Zinnia has repurposed a small easel placed on a rolling cart to set up her shot. She also recommends that when you hit record, be read to begin talking so you don’t have an awkward pause at the beginning. Of course, you can edit your video if you want to learn that skill, too.

Along those lines, Lasley Steever, our director of education and digital engagement, has finally taken the plunge and started to learn the basics of video editing. We’ve been getting clips from many different sources, and sometimes it is necessary to cut, merge, or add slides or sound to a video before it’s ready to share. Lasley found a great tutorial for iMovie here that gave her the confidence to jump in and get started.

If you’re like many of us, your personal computers may not have all the bells and whistles that you were used to having at your office. Associate Curator of Education, Becca Hiester, has found lots of resources in Google apps. “My personal computer doesn’t actually have any software. I only used it to check email and do some internet surfing before,” Becca explains. “I had previously known and used Google Docs (word processing), Sheets (spreadsheets), and Slides (for building presentations), but now I’m really getting into Google Forms and Google Drawings.” The latter functions like a photo editing software and is allowing her to resize and crop images for use on social media (Becca manages our Facebook page). “Even with the apps I had used before, I’m learning a lot more about their functionality and ways that I can use them to my advantage in the future. I also love that as a team we can share files through Google easily,” she says. 

In addition to working from home, we are all trying to juggle just keeping up with our daily lives. Whether that involves training a new puppy, keeping kids educated and entertained, finding patience and grace towards our housemates, or honing new kitchen skills, we are working hard to find the joy (or humor) in the insanity.

New Kitchen Skills
Gibbes staff are exploring new cooking techniques while working from home.

Special Events Manager Katie Borges has a new puppy at home to fill her time when she’s not working with clients on plans for their gatherings at the Gibbes when we reopen, but she’s also dedicating some time to learn how to cook and bake. “Trust me,” Katie laughs, “this was not something I was capable of pre-quarantine.” She has been improving her pizza-making skills with recipes from Pizza Camp, by Joe Beddia, and also turns to Bon Appetite for recipes and inspiration. Director of Development Jen Ross is also finding comfort in the kitchen. After a year of it sitting on the shelf, she’s dusted off her InstantPot and is learning how to make quick and easy meals that her entire family loves. That is not something easy to achieve in any situation!

Kids at Home

For those of us with children at home, we have an even greater appreciation for our kids’ teachers. Whether we’re trying to remember how to find the derivative of a function or teach our kindergartner how to add tens together, we’re all finding challenges of multitasking in such different roles. And we’re not the only ones taking Zoom calls these days. Jena Clem, director of special events, laughs about the attempts to get her daughter focused on virtual gatherings with 11 other toddlers from her preschool class. In addition, Jena’s working on creatively potty-training at home—when her daughter needs to go, it’s “right now!,” whether or not mommy’s on a conference call. All of a sudden, those funny videos of children interrupting their parents during a live TV interview seem too close to home!

In all of this learning, we’ve also discovered a few things about ourselves… like Zinnia’s realization that even though she has become an expert at identifying every surface in the Museum that was regularly touched and has sanitized them completely, it is now clear that the reason she avoids cleaning her house really has nothing to do with not having enough time at home. Please take good care, and make sure to give yourself plenty of grace!

Published April 17, 2020

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