For the 2020 Fall Semester, Ohio University’s Kennedy Museum of Art has gone live online through the KMA Virtual Portal. 

The KMA Virtual Portal offers a safer option for visitors to access the Kennedy Museum of Art’s collections without visiting the museum in person.

According to the KMA website, the museum is “an integral part of the educational, research, and public service missions of Ohio University.” The art museum, which offers national and international exhibitions, collection-based research and diverse formal and informal learning opportunities, is housed in the Ridges and has been providing art education opportunities to students and Athens locals for years. The virtual portal is meant to create even more accessible options for people to learn about the KMA and the collections it offers.

Sally Delgado, the curator of education at the Kennedy Museum of Art, has worked closely this year with two graduate and five undergraduate student interns from OU to facilitate the experience of the museum as an educational resource. With the help of her team of interns and various other members within and outside of OU, the KMA Virtual Portal was compiled over the summer with four main sections: virtual exhibitions and tours, remote teaching resources, family-friendly activities and collections.

“It is divided into different sections that invite exploration of the curatorial voice and background process of putting the exhibition together,” Delgado explained in an email. “It also provides resources for teaching as well as fun art and math activities. Teachers can use the portal themselves with their classes, or they can request a synchronous visit with a museum staff member that further contextualizes the online exhibition with their class objectives.”

Upon request, OU and K-12 classes can take part in virtual class visits and visual literacy workshops at the museum. Many Athens City Schools art teachers have already added the virtual portal as a resource for their students in order to more broadly educate their students about the certain exhibits and collections that the portal offers.

An essential part of the success of the portal is Basil Masri Zada, a consultant for the education department of the museum. Zada, who is also an instructor at OU’s School of Art & Design and a Ph.D. Candidate of Interdisciplinary Arts, was the main person who transferred the exhibits and collections to the portal and made the KMA staff’s dream a reality. Zada designed and programmed every aspect of the portal, which includes more than 100 different pages. 

In addition to putting together the website, Zada recorded, designed and made available the portal’s Virtual Panoramic Tours, which give visitors an opportunity to view exhibits as if they were there in real life. 

“The portal is dynamic and always growing; it is not just a place to look at art,” Zada said in an email. “It is a comprehensive interactive non-linear experience. Based on that, the portal will continually evolve and add new elements, activities and exhibits.”

The most thorough online exhibit currently on display at the KMA Virtual Portal is Pattern & Disruption: Diné Lifeways and Embedded Mathematics. The exhibition explores Diné weavings and the mathematical ideas embedded within those weavings. 

Bob Klein, an OU mathematics professor and provost fellow for student success initiatives, guest curated the exhibit with his Navajo Brother and Mother, Henry and Sally Fowler.

While the exhibit initially opened Feb. 1, 2020, it was quickly forced to go virtual. The fact that the virtual portal was developed gives people an opportunity to view the exhibit which was prepared over a course of two years. 

Klein explained that he is more than delighted that the exhibit was included in the online portal because it also allows the people he worked with on the Navajo Nation to now view the exhibit rather than travel all the way to Athens. 

“I think it would have made Edwin Kennedy unbelievably happy to know that elements of the collection he assembled were now being shared back with the descendants of the skilled weavers who created them…” Klein said in an email. “To find out that the KMA has over 700 Navajo (Diné) weavings, on the Ridges, in Athens, is an unexpected convergence for me. It’s one of the things I love about being part of the Ohio University community—a place where those convergences happen all the time for our students.”

To view the KMA Virtual Portal, visit https://www.ohio.edu/museum/virtual.

@thelilyroby

lr158117@ohio.edu