The Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden in Winter Park, FL moved their physical exhibition online after the COVID-19 closures. Shown is a screenshot from their Public Profile on Artwork Archive.
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced museums around the world to temporarily close their doors.
But, institutions are getting creative and moving their physical events online.
Like many museums, The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, Florida suspended normal operations in the spring of 2020 to help thwart COVID-19 and protect visitors and staff. The closure also happened during their biggest signature event and fundraiser—the Winter Park Paint Out.
But the Polasek Museum didn’t let COVID-19 keep them from hosting their 12th annual plein air festival. It just had to take a different form. The Museum team quickly pivoted and modified the event into an online exhibition and sale.
The Polasek Museum team shares how they were able to keep their fundraiser on track with new virtual methods—and, why they’ll be keeping this online format beyond Coronavirus!
Twenty-five plein air artists are invited every year to participate in the Winter Park Paint Out. Here is their roster along with an update about moving WPPO online.
First things first, what’s the Winter Park Paint Out?
The Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens is part of the National Trust’s Historic Artists’ Home and Studios. Winter Park Paint Out was formed in 2009 to forge a partnership between the Museum and 25 professional plein air artists to capture the beauty of the world around us to sell in a mutually beneficial way.
“Over the years our Central Florida community of art lovers have become collectors of hundreds of original works of art created by the gifted artists who have been with us over the dozen years we have presented Winter Park Paint Out. Utilizing Artwork Archive has made it possible to exponentially expand our outreach and has made it possible to present our event virtually during this challenging time,” according to Debbie Komanski, CEO/Executive Director of the Polasek Museum.
It’s important to note here that museums aren’t the only ones affected by their closures. Artists are also affected. “Cancelling the event doesn’t just cut into fundraising, it also cuts into the exposure and income of our participating artists,” shares Hal Stringer, volunteer, and organizer of the event.
What online platform did Winter Park Paint Out use?
The group used their Artwork Archive account to create a digital exhibition and sell their pieces. “Artwork Archive was an easy choice,” says Hal, who has been using Artwork Archive for his own personal art collection.
What is Artwork Archive? It’s an online art inventory and collection management system used by artists, collectors, and organizations to organize, manage, and showcase their works of art. One popular feature of the platform, even before COVID-19, is the Public Profile, which enables users to make their artworks public.
WPPO brings its artists, artwork, and collections online. Interested buyers can search available works as well as peruse works from past Paint Outs.
Making the transition from older software
In the years before using Artwork Archive, Hal wrote software to support the Paint Out’s archive. But as he puts it, “What if I were hit by a bus? What happens to the event? To the website?”
The Museum needed to convert to something that didn’t rely on one person—something that could be used by all of the Museum Staff. And that platform needed to be simple and powerful. Thus, they transitioned from Hal’s homemade code to an Artwork Archive account.
Steps to move your exhibition online
Here is how the Polasek Museum transitioned its physical event to a digital one.
Step 1: Solicit artwork
Every year Winter Park invites back their best-selling and most popular artists. To keep the event fresh, new artists are invited to participate in a juried selection process. Artists apply by sending a short bio, artist statement, headshot, and three sample images with size, medium, etc. When the museum closed due to COVID-19, Museum Staff reached out to participating artists and asked them to submit up to 20 paintings each for sale during a virtual event.
Step 2: Upload the information into your Artwork Archive account
After selecting the artists, the Paint Out team already had all of the information needed to build the event online. The artist info, artworks, and descriptions like title, medium, size, and price were imported into and stored in their Artwork Archive account.
Organizations can also use the artist submission form to let artists submit works directly into their Artwork Archive account. Learn more here.
WPPO organizes the 400+ paintings of the exhibit into collections to help guide viewers through themes like size and subject matter.
Step 3: Create collections
“We have over 400 paintings in our virtual exhibition and sale. That’s a lot of art to see in one online visit—it’s a bit overwhelming. So we decided to create a series of smaller collections, grouping similar works together by size or subject matter,” states Hal. “Visitors can view the entire show or just paintings in areas they really enjoy.”
The Museum used Artwork Archive’s Collections to make thematic groupings like “Winter Park Classics,” “Sun, Surf and Sand,” and “Good Things Come in Small Frames.” The latter is a smart and accessible collection that caters to a new audience with a lower price point. And these virtual collections act as gallery rooms for the public to explore.
Step 4: “Turn on” the Public Profile
The Public Profile is an invaluable asset for any organization looking to showcase their collection, gain additional exposure, and boost SEO. The Public Profile is linked directly to your art inventory so the information you put into your account can be easily shared outward. It is also hosted on Artwork Archive’s Discovery platform where collectors, buyers and art lovers of all types search for art.
Winter Park Paint Out had all of their collections, artwork, and artist information already entered in their account. So it was easy for them to enable their Public Profile to establish a virtual, public presence. See it here.
Step 5: Embed the exhibition into your website
Your Artwork Archive Public Profile works in tandem with your website or online portfolio and complements your existing web presence. You can also integrate it into your existing website; it only takes copying and pasting one line of code into your HTML.
Winter Park Paint Out embedded their Public Profile into their website. They also embedded their collections and artist information. They worked alongside the Artwork Archive team to achieve the functionality and look and feel that they needed for the event.
Artists have their own page on the WPPO site. Viewers can look through their portfolio, inquire for purchase, and head to the artist's website.
The ability to embed profiles, collections, and artist pages is extremely important for the Polasek Museum. Why?
The embed ensures a more consistent visitor experience. The look and feel of the Museum’s web pages do not change. Visitors never leave the website and always know where they are.
The Museum can track visitors to web pages with Google Analytics. It’s important to track visitors (digital or physical) since grant funding can require live visitor counts. When the museum is closed, there are no people to count. Instead, the Polasek Museum can count web visitors to demonstrate that the organization is reaching its audience and making a difference, even during this global pandemic. They can count page views in lieu of footsteps.
“With Artwork Archive’s integration features, we get a cohesive user experience and the ability to count and understand our online visitors.” Hal Stringer
Unexpected benefits of moving the Paint Out online
- Participating artists aren’t restricted by location. Since the event is online, artists don’t have to be in the area. For instance, artist Natalie Andreeva lives in Tallahassee, but she can showcase works without traveling.
- Artists get more space to showcase. In the physical event, artists are given a 4x8 foot display area in the museum. Typically the works are small so that the artists have space to sell multiple pieces. There isn’t space for bigger works. With virtual exhibitions, artists can show work they typically wouldn’t be able to show in the physical event.
- Online sales are easy. Winter Park loves the “inquire” button which enables buyers to contact them directly. A staff member works directly with the buyer to set up the purchase and shipping. Alternatively, you could include a “Purchase” button to your preferred e-commerce site.
- Sales tracking keeps everything in order. Winter Park also uses their Artwork Archive account to track all sales, buyer information, and use this information for accounting throughout the year.
Using online tools to avoid a “one-and-done” event
Organizations that are hosting online events are struggling with how to make it interesting over time. Winter Park Paint Out didn’t want to just “post a bunch of paintings and call it a day.”
This is how Winter Park keeps things interesting virtually:
Every day the portfolio on the Public Profile is sorted randomly. This way exposure is fair for every artist. No one is favored by other sorting functions like name or size. “Every day people go to our page and see something fresh. Repeat visitors stay engaged with new painting selections to enjoy,” asserts Hal.
Winter Park Paint Out also created a four-week email campaign. Each email they’ll send will have a different collection and featured artists. “We’re using the information that we already have in our Artwork Archive account. And we can link to the collections and artist pages that have been embedded,” shares Hal.
“This is excellent. We’ll be using this every year.”
The Polasek Museum is eager to see how the change from physical to virtual will proceed. The event goes live in May of 2020. We’ll keep you posted on the results!
In the meantime, the Polasek Museum also uses their Artwork Archive account to share their current museum exhibition—Venetian Canals of Winter Park: The Art of Don Sondag.