Ellen Noël adjusts to new normal

Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the Ellen Noël Art Museum on the UTPB campus has adapted its activities and exhibits to the new way of the world.
It has adjusted to social distancing, limited hours and online activities.
The museum promotes activities, shopping, community events and more through YouTube and its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Development and Marketing Manager Ashley Flores said Art Tales is online on its social media pages.
“We also have, at the moment, Art to Go. We usually go to the schools around this time for second graders, but because of COVID we weren’t able to so we decided to bring it online …,” Flores said.
“Any student can come in and pick up an Art to Go kit for the month. We have different artists every month. This month we have Frida Kahlo,” Flores said. “They get to watch Story Time and then do an art activity at home with us, so that’s something that we’re trying to do online."
The most recent Thursday night discussion was held in person because there were only 10 people and they had enough room to social distance. If they get more than that, Flores said they will take it online.
The Fine Arts Connection for third graders also went virtual.
“It is different for us because we’re normally used to doing everything here and having people come in for these programs …,” Flores said.
She added that she feels the museum is getting good interaction online.
“I think people are really loving it. We have a page called Museum from Home that has everything on there,” Flores said. “They can go in and view our Art Tales. Our Fine Arts Connection is still up, so students can still see that. Then our Art to Go program (and) the book talk discussions. Then we also have one coming up on Jan. 21 with Steven Porterfield and our curator Daniel Zies. They’re going to talk about ‘Betrothed: 250 Years of Wedding Fashion.’” Betrothed is on display through March 7, 2021.
People can vote on their favorite dress each week. The winner is announced on Mondays on the museum’s social media at 6 p.m.
“I think visiting the museum is pretty safe,” Flores said. “We only allow a certain amount of people — 30 max — and we can spread out to be safe.”
Flores said the museum will announce Book Your Bubble today.
“It’s where people can come in, book their time that they want. We have specific hours that they can choose from and visit the museum just by themselves. It will be like $20 for five people,” Flores said.
The first hour the museum is open is dedicated to senior citizens and at-risk people as well.
“We have had pretty good traffic in the evenings, especially with school out,” Flores said.
Educator Annie Stanley said the effort to make the museum experience safe started in March.
“So this is kind of old hat for us right now. Some of our stuff is online; some stuff we can do in small numbers. The preschool story time/art tales, we’ve kept that online. We have our summer camp. We did in person and our monthly classes we’re still doing in person for children ages 6 to 12. That’s called Adventures in Art and that’s once a month. … We make everyone wear masks and we have them enter through the gardens. They don’t come through the building because our classrooms have access to the garden. We sanitize everything and we keep the classes really small. We’ve been able to do that safely. … We’ve continued to do our Community Art Days for our families and we’ve adapted those where we’re limiting how many people can come in the building. It’s kind of a one-way route so they come in, they can go through the galleries, but when they exit to the garden there are stations they can stop. It’s all no contact, so the last one we did we had artists doing demonstrations, but the people were just watching not touching. Then when they left, they got a goodie bag that had all the supplies. They could go home and do some of the things at home,” Stanley said.
Stanley said she hopes by next fall to be back in the schools to offer Art to Go.
“… That’s much more dynamic in person. That’s probably the most challenging one to do online,” Stanley said.