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Behind the Scenes: Virtual Artist Talk with Poppy Garcia

4/18/2020

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I was kind of thinking we would just set up some lawn chairs in my backyard with a webcam and our phones and make it super casual. 
– Richard Rodriguez, Exhibition Designer

This is how we approached our first virtual artist talk since the COVID-19 mandatory museum closure because, well, why not? We were over two weeks into developing our virtual presence – redesigning our website, posting education prompts on social media, processing refunds for in-person classes and events, etc. – and we knew our visitors and followers, like us, were probably starting to feel the effects of  isolation. We needed  to lift their spirits, make them comfortable, and engage them remotely in a way that made them feel like we were together.

We were all discouraged when the closure and event cancellations, including Poppy’s exhibition opening, were first announced,. We work on a timeline months, if not years, in advance in order to plan exhibitions and related programs, and suddenly everything changed . Our mission was to stay motivated, and to keep on the track set forth as much as possible.

You see me up on a ladder, you see Richard put out two chairs, and it’s him sitting me down and breaking the news to me that the reception was cancelled, which in my mind, meant that they were going to be closing soon thereafter. I remember sitting there and Richard asking me if I was going to finish (the exhibition murals), and there was maybe a second of contemplation before I was like, ‘Yeah, no, of course I’m going to f****g finish it.’….I’ve put so much time into this, and I’ll be damned if I don’t finish this and see this finished tonight….You see me get right back up on that ladder and finish the rest of those pieces.
– Poppy Garcia

Poppy has a strong social media following and he regularly interacts with his followers, particularly on Instagram, through fun stories, music, process posts, studio tours, and the like. We wanted to not just generate viewers, but also encourage continued engagement with the PMA.  It was important that the interview be accessible afterward in case viewers weren’t able to watch in real time, so Facebook became an essential secondary platform. We decided to stream to both platforms using different devices – a webcam and computer for Facebook live, and two personal phones featuring a split screen interview for Instagram live. We spent multiple meetings figuring out logistics, mics, timing, marketing, and other details to make sure the tech side of things went off without a hitch. Our driving question was, “Why live stream when we can pre-record?” Live streaming mimics the experience of an in-person artist talk. Our visitors have the opportunity to interact with the artist, listen to a first person account of their process and reflection on their work, and ask questions with immediate answers.

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This was the first step in the right direction of thinking about all of our programming from a distance. It allowed us to dip our toes into rethinking everything we’d planned for several months, and gain insight into the success, and challenges, of virtual museum programming. ​

“I live my life very loosely, I don’t invest a lot in the promise of anything. I feel like it’s best to be flexible in life because you never know what’s going to happen next.”
– Poppy Garcia

We are learning from Poppy’s perspective, and growing as we move forward one live stream at a time.

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