In the Face of Crisis, the Barrick Museum Draws on Creativity

Multi-media collage depicting families by artist Jess Vanessa
Colored pencil portrait of a woman by artist Sue Havens

"Self Portrait @ 1" by Sue Havens

May. 14, 2020

Nothing stops art. In fact, oftentimes art is born in times of upheaval and stress.

So while UNLV’s Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art had to temporarily shut its doors in response to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, that didn’t mean there would be no art. Instead of walking in to browse through the galleries, executive director Alisha Kerlin and her team created new opportunities for the community to experience creativity.

“People are counting on us to lead,” says Kerlin. “Our staff is working hard to provide virtual tours and engage our audience in other creative ways.”

Backed by artists and donors, the Barrick Museum is staying open online. Initiatives like “A Drawing a Day Keeps the Pandemic Away” and “Fridge Frame” are providing virtual public art spaces, and inspiring artists of all ages and abilities to flex their creativity.

From March 18 through April 30, the “Drawing a Day” project prompted local and global participants to create and upload art with assignments like “Close your eyes, draw what you hear” or “Draw yourself not touching your face.”

“We have heard from artists that the project is grounding, positive for mental health, and something they look forward to each day — a pause from news cycles and worry,” says Kerlin. “With almost 1000  submissions, we've received artwork from all over the world, all ages, and all skill levels.

The Barrick is publishing digital catalogs  of the drawings.

You can enjoy them here on Instagram. 

The Barrick’s “Fridge Frame” exhibit invites anyone to share a photo or video of their refrigerator art – and give a tour as if they were a docent.

“Every great artist starts out with their first works of art proudly displayed on their fridge at home,” the call for entries reads. “Macaroni collages and turkey hands helped plant the seed for mixed media installations and vibrant oil paintings to come. Chances are your first “gallery show” was held up by magnets on a refrigerator next to coupons for frozen pizza rolls.”

The project is organized in collaboration with Stephen Siwinski.

While rising to the challenge, the Barrick still is taking some hits during the pandemic. The museum’s self-supporting revenue from rentals was immediately cut. It had five exhibitions planned to open on March 27th. Currently, those shows are on hold as the exhibition calendar is being shuffled.

Additionally, the popular Bus to Barrick excursions that bring CCSD students to the museum are on hold. “We missed out on several scheduled tours this year so those buses will likely transfer to fall visits,” Kerlin explains. “That program is funded 100% by donors and such a mighty effort from our staff. We are currently speaking to the teachers about what else we can offer them during this time of uncertainty.”

Still, Kerlin says, she and the staff are undeterred in their mission to provide access to the arts.

“Just as the Barrick does when our doors are open, we are becoming a nexus for connection. Everyone deserves access to an art museum.”

Top photo: "Warm Embraces" mixed-media collage by Jess Vanessa