Artists & Galleries

Parrish Art Museum Goes Digital: Live Q&As, Family Art Studios and More

An online museum for a socially distant East End.

The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill may be temporarily closed, but the cultural institution is far from out of commission, providing the East End community with a deep well of online content and new virtual programs every week. “As an art museum, what you hope to provide to your audience is authentic experiences with art,” Parrish Director Terrie Sultan says. “Now, we’re essentially a digital museum, so we’re ramping up to try and stay as relevant as we can and provide those experiences to people in a different way.”

The Parrish’s most recent foray into the digital world transforms the popular Friday Nights series into a livestream conference event, where viewers will be able to call in on Zoom, watch never-before-seen video segments and chat with featured artists. The first in the Friday Nights Live series takes place on Friday, March 27 at 5 p.m. and includes a live introduction by Sultan, a pre-recorded gallery tour of the 2020 Student Exhibition and a live Q&A with Sultan and Education Director Cara Conklin-Wingfield. “It will be an interesting experiment, and I think it will be fun,” Sultan says. Anyone who doesn’t tune in to the free livestream, can view it on the Parrish website later.

Art on display in the 2020 Student Exhibition, Photo: Courtesy Parrish Art Museu
Art on display in the 2020 Student Exhibition, Photo: Courtesy Parrish Art Museum

Families who miss the Parrish’s popular Open Studios will love the Parrish Home Art Studios. Every Tuesday the museum’s Educational Department announces the upcoming program of six daily activities, inspired by works in the Parrish collection and using common materials readily available in most homes. Once parents and children complete their art projects, they’re encourage to share their creations on Instagram using #ParrishHomeArtStudios.

Like most museums, history is an important piece of the Parrish’s cultural offerings, and the online Artist Stories section delivers in spades with an extensive archive of research on artists dating back to the late 19th century who were connected to the East End. The regularly-updated section includes rich geographic, historic and anecdotal information about where artists lived and worked, as well as related links to the impressive Parrish art database.

By far the most technologically innovative is the virtual tour of the Saul Steinberg exhibition, best viewed on your smartphone, which allows you to swipe through the gallery and click on each work for detailed information ( Those visiting the website should also be sure to check out the weekly Parrish Art Museum Podcast, video showcases and PechaKucha Night archive.

According to Sultan, the best way East Enders can help the Parrish in this uncertain time is to “be a part of our family” by participating in its online programming and utilizing the invaluable resources found on the website. While the museum is busy fundraising to be able to continue offering these community services, online donations from longtime patrons and new virtual patrons go a long way in keeping the institution thriving year-round. “I know that people are very much in extremis because of this crisis, and people are worried about their employment and their health care,” Sultan notes. “I know that it’s tough for everybody, but if people are able think about providing some financial support, that would be very helpful.”

There’s no solid date set when the Parrish Art Museum will be able to reopen its doors, but in the meantime, solace can still be found in its numerous artworks—just in a different format. “Remember that being in association with beauty can help in times of stress and trauma, and that’s what we’re trying to be able to provide for people through our website,” Sultan says. “Just recognize that there is a future, and we’ll all be part of it. We don’t know what that future is going to look like, but art and beauty are still going to be very much a part of it. Even just looking at a beautiful painting on a computer can actually be soothing and transformational. Listening to some beautiful music, that can help lift your spirits. That’s the thing that all the cultural institutions, not only on the East End but everywhere, can offer people—opportunities to lift your spirits.”

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