During these uncertain times, SMoCA has invited artists and staff to utilize our blog Inspire as an outlet to make meaningful connections by sharing personal reflections and insight into their practice.
As the Curator of Programming at SMoCA, it is my job to develop and produce original programming. When the pandemic hit, it totally changed how I approach and plan programs. The challenge has been rethinking how we can still provide programs that are just as engaging on a virtual platform. Before the pandemic, I had in-person programs planned for summer and fall that I had to immediately revisit and consider how I could make it a virtual event. Can it be done? How does it translate? What can we do differently? What tools do we need? All of these questions and many more crossed my mind when attempting to take a typical in-person event and transform it into a virtual event that is just as compelling. There is a lot to consider in doing this. My main concern is the participant’s experience. We are all spending so much more time in front of screens right now, so how can we make our virtual events engaging and worth your time? For me, this means that we must still maintain SMoCA’s unique spin that attracts people to our events in the first place and find a way to bring it to your screens.
We just had our first virtual event, Trivia Night @SMoCA on Friday, July 24. It all seems like a blur right now, but I still wanted to take the time to reflect on the experience and what it means for museum programming. For Trivia Night, I stuck to the same format as the in-person event. We invited a talented and funny host to guide our participants through 10 rounds of questions about pop culture that feature both video and sound clips. The top three teams win a coveted trophy.
So, for this event, what changed the most were the logistics behind the scenes. I had to consider what I could do to streamline the event to make it the best experience for the participants. The little things we took advantage of, like how we usually gather answers with pencil and paper, now became our biggest challenge. So, this meant figuring out how we gather answers in the most organized way, streamlining how the video or audio clips were played, and making sure we could switch back-and-forth between different screens seamlessly. It became a much bigger production with lots of multitasking. The thing about virtual events that may be a downfall is that you lose some of that collective energy that creates a community among participants and brings everyone together. However, the wonderful thing about a virtual program is accessibility. Anyone with the privilege of internet access can participate from around the world. So, in a way, virtual programming has the ability to bring a larger, more diverse community together for a collective experience. That prospect is exciting to me. While, I do miss the atmosphere of in-person events and look forward to them making their return in the future, I do believe that virtual programming is here to stay. Although, this moment has been challenging, it has pushed me to be more creative and forever changed my approach to public programming. The possibilities are now endless.