Beach Museum adapts to pandemic, offers virtual exhibitions and ‘Inside Out’ walking tour

The Beach Museum adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering virtual tours and moving exhibits to windows for passersby to see. (Jared Shuff | Collegian Media Group)

As winter sets in on the university, a trip to the museum has never been easier, and leaving the dorm is not required.

The inside of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art is closed because of the pandemic, but Kansas State students and staff can unwind after a busy first week of classes with views of art through “Inside Out” — a walking tour outside the building — or through the museum’s new virtual exhibits.

The eye-catching lighted display of the walking gallery is best viewed in person around twilight. Museum staff encourages visitors to bring binoculars and download the Smartify app (available on Google Play and in the App Store) to see and hear more details about the art.

Linda Duke, Beach Museum director, said planning for the walking exhibition began last March, soon after the building closed.

“One of the staff members had a great idea, ‘What if we use the building itself as an exhibition?’” Duke said.

Lindsay Smith, exhibition designer and building systems lead, spearheaded the creation of the walking gallery, experimenting with lights and placement of pieces that were already part of the museum’s collection.

Smith said he and his team considered the risk of sunlight exposure and changing temperatures when determining where to place the pieces. They wanted to ensure the artwork would be visible during the day, as well as night time, without harming the artwork.

In addition to the in-person exhibit, museum staff expanded the museum’s online presence with free virtual exhibitions, Zoom discussions, a film club, Facebook posts and more.

Smith said in many ways, the online resources helped the museum reach a new audience of tech-savvy art-lovers.

Luke Dempsey, exhibitions designer and museum technology lead, said he hopes his involvement with the museum will help him share the parallels and intersections between art and technology with the community.

“We want to reach as many people as we can, and creating digital content is one of the best ways to expand our audience,” Dempsey said. “Our curators and content creators have so many important and relevant ideas to communicate with the public.”

Dempsey said he wants to continue giving Kansans a voice in the global arts and cultural arena.

The staff members hope to make the virtual programs and exhibitions a permanent feature of the museum in addition to future in-person events when the museum reopens to the public.

Duke said the museum is still looking for ways to safely let visitors — and fresh air — back in the museum without damaging the art, which must be kept at a certain humidity. In the meantime, however, the museum staff is planning some events for the next school year.

Duke said the museum curators are looking forward to showing the public an exhibition called “Gordon Parks: Homeward to the Prairie I Come,” as well as a smaller exhibition over works from Doug Barrett.

“In conjunction with both of those,” Duke said, “we’re actually working on a partnership with McCain, students and other parts of the university to bring an A-list jazz musician — Terence Blanchard — to do an artistic and educational residency early next April in 2022.”

Smith said art is a great way to express feelings that people don’t always have the words to describe.

“You’re not in it for the money or the glory, you just enjoy making art and handling it, and that’s why I think doing these exhibitions is so great,” Smith said.

The country is wracked by some big division of people seeing things differently, Duke said.

“There’s a lot of anger and frustration and people not listening to each other or judging each other really harshly,” Duke said. “And I think the arts are a really good place to heal some of that.”