Quarantine Culture: 5 Ways to Experience Design and Art Without Leaving Your Home

Debbie Millman’s downloadable care package, a livestream of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, Public Art Fund’s greatest hits, and more.

Though the novel coronavirus has shown signs of slowing down, the cultural sector remains at a standstill: Museums and galleries remain shuttered in many countries, and fairs and festivals have been canceled. At the advice of experts, people continue to hunker down to self-quarantine and practice social distancing. The situation is evolving quickly, a new reality has been forced upon us, and fields like architecture and painting can seem trivial. And yet, at moments of such isolation and crisis, art, design, and performance can offer powerful means of connection—and a welcome escape from the disorienting present. With exhibitions and concerts called off, we survey five low-risk ways to experience culture—from of Public Art Fund’s coloring sheets to candid video spotlights of Fotografiska’s artists, and more.

Austin (2015) by Ellsworth Kelly. Photo by the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, courtesy Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin.

Livestream of Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin

Before Ellsworth Kelly passed away in 2015, he completed the transcendent and monumental Austin, a 2,715-square-foot stone building that celebrates color, form, and light, and the harmonious beauty they create together. Inside the Romanesque-inspired chapel, three striking stained glass window formations create patterns of colored light that slowly meander throughout the interior over the course of the day. Though the building is currently closed, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin has created an online portal that offers visitors a look inside. The livestream, which launches today in honor of Kelly’s 97th birthday, offers a rare opportunity to experience the artwork’s full course of movement of light from dawn to dusk. “I hope visitors will experience Austin as a place of calm and light,” Kelly once said. “Go there and rest your eyes, rest your mind.” 


Debbie Millman. Photo by Marla Aufmuth, courtesy of TED

Dropbox Digital Care Package: Debbie Millman

Since 2005, Debbie Millman has hosted the stalwart Design Matters, one of the first podcasts to focus on design and, specifically, how creative people design the arc of their lives. Over the years, Millman has conducted hundreds of fascinating interviews with such luminaries as Alain de Botton, Marina Abramovic, and Malcolm Gladwell. Now, thanks to a partnership with Dropbox, she offers 25 of these audio files through a downloadable care package. “[It’s] a wonderful way to send people you love things that will help them feel better, feel more excited, and feel closer to you” during the quarantine, says Millman, who stuffed the care package with something for everyone. Perhaps most compelling is a ten-minute-long “graphic film”—a series in which she fills entire Moleskines with sketches of a movie she’s watching in real time, such as Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.


Flow Separation (2018) by Tauba Auerbach. Photo by Nicholas Knight, courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery and Public Art Fund


Public art may still be out of reach as the world continues to shelter in place, but the Public Art Fund has teamed up with artists to bring their monumental artworks to people’s homes and screens. As part of its #PAFatHome initiative, the organization has created printable coloring sheets of three major artworks—Rob Pruitt’s The Andy Monument, Tauba Auerbach’s Flow Separation, and Elmgreen & Dragset’s Van Gogh’s Ear. Color, trace, and cut the artworks as you see fit, and share your creations on Instagram by tagging @PublicArtFund and #PAFatHome for a chance to be featured.


Blown Away: Behind the Scenes

Last summer, a new Netflix competition series shed unexpected light on the art of glassblowing. Viewers of Blown Away, a highly binge-able show that pits ten master glassmakers against one another to win a residency at the Corning Museum of Glass, discovered the intricacies and high-stakes process behind working with an unforgiving material that often exceeds 2100 degrees during production. Almost a year after Blown Away aired, its cast and crew reunites with Corning for a behind-the-scenes look at its most compelling moments. The group divulges how an intern masterminded the show’s concept, how Katherine Gray, the resident evaluator, struggled to praise substandard work, and how two contestants have used their newfound fame to bolster their glassmaking careers.


Ellen von Unwerth

Fotografiska: Fotographers (in) Focus

The Swedish photography museum Fotografiska, which recently opened a location in New York, has launched Fotographers (in) Focus, a video series that flips the camera onto artists who were presenting work when the coronavirus outbreak forced it to temporarily close. In each video, the photographer reveals deeper insights, personal anecdotes, and rare outtakes that illuminate their latest works—and shed light on how they’ve been passing the time during quarantine.

The Montreal-based photographer Laurence Philomene, who blends documentary and self-portraiture to explore queer and trans experiences, reflects on a recent residency in Iceland that explored the island’s picturesque landscapes and fabled Huldufólk people. Afterward, they reveal their live-work space, which features a makeshift dollhouse storage unit they found on the street at age 15. The renowned German photographer Ellen von Unwerth shares iPhone snippets from her current stakeout in the verdant French countryside, where she reflects on her exhibition Devotion! 30 Years of Photographing Women. “It’s important to appreciate the moment—to live in the moment, to be joyful, and to embrace life spontaneously,” says von Unwerth. “I hope my photographs reflect that.”

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