Even though most San Diego County museums are closed due to the pandemic, the 32nd annual San Diego Museum Month will return today in an all-virtual format.
Through Feb. 28, the San Diego Museum Council will be presenting “28 Days of Museum Moments” on its website and social media channels. This will include live performances and demonstrations, educational programs for schools, virtual art exhibitions and an online film festival. Museums with outdoor facilities and gardens that have remained open are also featured. Some events will be ticketed but many will be free.
San Diego Museum Month was created in 1989 to boost foot traffic from local residents during the month of February, traditionally a slow month for ticket sales. The enticement for museum month visitors is half-price admission, which has proven a strong incentive for locals to check out museums they’ve never visited before, said council president Rebecca Handelsman.
When it became clear in December that museums would not be allowed to reopen by February under the state’s purple tier restrictions, Handelsman said the council — which represents 40 museums countywide — came up with a creative way to mark Museum Month that can be enjoyed by online visitors local and beyond.
“The silver lining of the pandemic is that visiting a museum does take time and it’s sometimes hard to find the time to trek down to a new museum. With all these experiences online, it will be easier to dip into an experience at a museum,” she said. “We’ve seen people outside San Diego tuning into our online programs and people outside the United States, too.”
Handelsman, who also oversees communications for the San Diego Natural History Museum, described the past 10 months as a “roller coaster” experience, as most of the county’s indoor museums have been closed for all but a few days or weeks since March. Many have laid off or furloughed most of their staffs and launched major fundraising campaigns to make up income deficits. Some, like the Natural History Museum and Museum of Making Music, have used the extended closures to undertake renovations, expand their online presence and boost outdoor and community programming.
“I would say that it’s been very hard,” she said. “But museums by nature are operated and driven by creative people who are used to working with tight budgets and being scrappy and nimble. While it’s been a big struggle, it’s also been nice to see how museums have been able to be resilient and respond.”
Among the programs already booked for February at local museums are:
- The Museum of Photographic Arts will host digital screenings for the San Diego Human Rights Watch Festival Tuesday through Feb. 8.
- Tijuana Estuary will host a “Wild about Wetlands” event at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with other livestreams planned every Tuesday afternoon in February.
- The Museum of Making Music will host a live lecture at 2 p.m. Feb. 5 with composer and trumpeter Kris Johnson about his career and the flugelhorn.
- San Diego Archaeological Center hosts anthropologist Jon Spenard in a Zoom lecture on ancient Maya cave rituals at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 18.
- The Mingei International Museum will host hip-hop artist Ramel Wallace in a home mask-making class on Facebook Live at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 21.
- The San Diego Natural History Museum will host a pair of Zoom classes geared for children by falconer Bob Gordon and his Harris hawk Huxley at 4 p.m. Feb. 24 and 10 a.m. Feb. 26.
- Lux Art Institute in Encinitas will host a pair of talks with artist-in-residence Beatriz Cortez in Spanish at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 and in English at 6 p.m. Feb. 25.
Although most museums have been giving away their digital programming since March, Handelsman said San Diegans have shown their thanks by generously supporting the institutions with donations.
“It’s been incredible to see the support from the community that the pandemic has brought out,” she said. “People are understanding and realizing what we have here and just like the way people are supporting local restaurants and buying local, people are supporting their museums.”
The council will post one or two “museum moments” events every day in February at sandiegomuseumcouncil.org and on social media at Facebook.com/sandiegomuseumcouncil, instagram.com/gomuseums/ and twitter.com/gomuseums.
— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune