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As we all get to grips with how to survive through a global pandemic, we wanted to share with you a written interview with Eva Sweeney Founder and Director of ESMoA located in El Segundo, California, where we discuss their digital strategy.

ESMoA is an art laboratory run by artlab21 Foundation. Their mission is to Spread the Spark of Creativity through the display and education of visual arts. ESMoA functions as a catalyst for creative thinking offering unique Experiences. The Experiences – their word for exhibition/exhibit – present a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, works on paper, performances, and photography. Read more about ESMoA here.

Please can you provide an insight into your digital strategy?

One of the primary goals of our digital strategy has been to use art as a tool to build community and encourage meaningful creative outlets in this uncertain time. ESMoA has developed a series of virtual programs under the hashtag (#) ESMoAatHome. And the website has been revamped to be more accessible for virtual audiences while the art lab is closed. Visitors can take a virtual tour of the gallery to see our current Experience 47: FREESTATE or choose another Experience from our archive. There are also tools for educators, such as free classroom curriculum guides, which are available for free download.

We’ve also been using Instagram a lot more and have brought our popular PLAY program to the platform. Designed for audiences 3 – 5-years-old, guests can tune in from the comfort of home to hear stories and make art live with their adult companions. We’ve also used the platform for artist interviews and to carry out collaborations with neighboring institutions like The Wende Museum.

On Fridays, we host an hour-long adult drawing program, JUST DRAW on Zoom. Many of the workshops are led by ESMoA’s dedicated staff, but the digital forum has enabled us to invite artists from Los Ángeles and England to guest facilitate lessons too. JUST DRAW attracts regular attendees from Southern California as well as guests from across the country. Participants have described these events as therapeutic and eagerly look forward to making art in the digital space together

Shortly after the safer-at-home orders were announced in California, a volunteer suggested a virtual artist open call: “Art in the Time of COVID.” Each week we shared an original artwork on @esmoarg with a quote from the artist. The collection of works submitted for this digital exhibition speaks to the human experience in very relatable terms.

Are you planning any further developments or new initiatives?

Following the uprising and protests in response to the murder of George Floyd, we have also been using our social media to share information and resources centered on anti-racist and anti-bias education. This Fall we hosted a series of free professional development workshops for educators led by artists and educators. The workshops facilitated by FREESTATE artists Cole Sternberg and Álvaro D. Márquez explored topics such as human rights, environmentalism, and redlining. A workshop facilitated by The Anti-Racist Art Teacher introduced educators to anti-racist resources developed by K-12 teachers.

Two of our most popular programs, the annual Video Art + Film Festival and Living Library (in collaboration with El Segundo Public Library) will be held virtually. The themes for each program explore ideas identified by the projects curators and discussions with members of ESMoA staff: VA+FF: RISE UP and Living Library: CARE. We are very excited to include our seasonal programming in our #ESMoAatHome initiative.

We offer virtual field trips for grades K-12. Held on Zoom, ESMoA field trips enhance distance-learning curriculum through interaction and student-driven discussion. For the Fall, our field trips will focus primarily on Experience 47: FREESTATE and we also look forward to offering more field trip opportunities since recordings of previous Experiences are available to view on esmoa.org.

A new virtual program, #FREESTATEFridays is an ongoing event where we share information about the Free Republic of California’s Constitution on our Instagram. Every post includes the clause and description of the article as relayed by artist Cole Sternberg.

In November, we will have an open call for programming and invite artists, arts collectives and local organizations to design and implement programs in digital forums. FREESTATE is a challenging, yet rich Experience, providing ample opportunity for institutional partnerships and meaningful collaborations between artists, educators, writers, and visitors.

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