Participate in Brooklyn Museum's Virtual First Saturdays -- Next up on Saturday, June 6, is "Pride!". Image from Brooklyn Museum
Most of the world is stuck at home now. But we all still crave travel, pleasure, intellectual stimulation. And while we are all finding new ways to connect and stay engaged with our loved ones at home and virtually (holla Houseparty, FaceTime, and Zoom!), everyone is also spending more time doing everything, it seems, online.
Traffic on Facebook, Netflix, and YouTube alone has surged 27%, 16%, and 15.3% respectively, according to a report in The New York Times. And while engagement and entertainment are important, even essential during these wild times, we can only schedule so many get-togethers on Zoom and watch so many videos. Humans also need to feel inspired and curious; we need to learn. Clearly, any trips abroad, outings to see live music or performances, and visits to museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions are off the table for now.
Tech-averse retirees (like my parents) who plan their entire social lives on art exhibitions and annual trips to the Opera and Ballet, virtual streaming has become a godsend. My father, who has Best Buy’s Geek Squad on speed dial for everything from Googling assistance to virus-busting, is virtually hitting the museum mile on the daily. My mother, who has still not mastered the “challenges” of texting and FaceTime, has somehow managed to figure out how to watch opera.
Thankfully, many of the Empire State’s most robust brain-plumping treasure troves remain open -- virtually, that is. Below, our favorite options for nurturing our hearts, brains, and souls, from the safety of our living rooms. (If you have others you recommend we add to this list, please let us know!)
ART LOVERS OF ALL AGES
New York [City] has some of — if not the — best array of museums in the world, a number of which are offering amazing content online, for free...Here are some of the best offerings (many curated shows via Google’s Art & Culture Platform): the Met, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Cooper Hewitt, the Frick, the Museum of the City of New York, the Whitney, the New-York Historical Society, the Tenement Museum, and El Museo del Barrio.
From Tenement Museum's online exhibition, "Beyond Statistics: Living in a Pandemic". Photo: Tenement Museum
If you want a curated slice of culture, consider digging into the Met’s Artist Project, where artists offer picks at their favorite parts of the museum’s collection, or the Museum of Modern Art’s YouTube channel, with behind-the-scenes looks at operations and interviews with artists.
Press play to watch MoMA's Sculpture Garden | Q&A with Ann Temkin and Peter Reed | VIRTUAL VIEWS
For kids who miss art class, there are an array of options. Working artist and mother of three Katy Garry swears by the online offerings of Pelham’s The Picture House.
“They have ‘at-home’ education shorts, where they show a short film, and then have a suggested activity that kids of all ages can tackle and get something from,” Garry says. “Usually there are discussion questions, and activities like recording their own movie, or writing or recording a short video about how the film made them feel. It’s a great creative outlet, and gives me a break so I can get a little work done and then have the surprise project they completed at the end.”
Photo: The Picture House
OPERA & DANCE LOVERS OF ALL AGES
For opera, nothing beats the New York Metropolitan Opera — for streaming. Available on Amazon, or through Apple and Roku online.
Photo: New York Metropolitan Opera
My 7-year-old twins, meanwhile, have suddenly developed a taste for avant garde dance. (Pro tip: if you deny your offspring all access to screens, except for homeschooling purposes, they’re suddenly much more open to performances and genres they would have assiduously spurned under normal circumstances.)
When they finish their school assignments, they now get the reward of watching experimental dance via Long Island City’s Chocolate Factory Theater, or the New York City Ballet (and the Paris Opera Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Ballet and other international companies) on Marquee TV via the 30-day trial. Though their favorite is content — updated every Wednesday — from Bard College’s Fisher Center for Performing Arts, which offers things like snippets from the Bard Music Festival or a performance of Mad Forest, the story of Romania’s revolution.
If you’ve got to move your own tapping toes, you can take a class virtually from Broadway Dance Center. Be a star at home!
Press play to watch BDCOnline | Inspiring The World To Dance
BROADWAY, BABY! AND CINEMA, TOO
On the weekends, we go to the theater. Broadway plays — from Cats to Kinky Boots — can be streamed online (for free for 7 days) via BroadwayHD.
If you are willing to pay a bit and are yearning for more than the usual online cinema fare, we recommend signing up for the City Cinemas newsletter, with a range of offerings for all film tastes. We also are blown away by the film offerings available on Criterion. Art house, noir, master filmmakers, classics -- they have it all. For us, the subscription fee is worth it!
Sometimes, my husband and I, when we want to have a “date night” will order takeout from one of our favorite high-end local joints and stream the New York Philharmonic. Candles are lit, yoga pants are banned, we (try to) discuss happy, adult things. Aaah.
Press play to watch Daniil Trifonov and NY Philharmonic String Quartet
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
We all miss the Great Outdoors. While we’re all spending more time in our yards (if we are fortunate to have one), strolling the streets of our hood, and grabbing moments in local parks, really taking in Spring in all of its glory can be difficult if we’re following social distancing guidelines.
Fortunately, you can supplement your outdoors time and get your flowers and green fix with video and photo highlights at the New York Botanical Garden, tours of Central Park with The New York Times, a gorgeous tour of the Adirondacks, and visit parks all over the state via New York State’s comprehensive array of virtual tours.
If you want a side of education with your greens, head over to the New York State Parks’ collection of nature videos from parks across the Empire State.
Press play to watch Nature Nearby: Critters to Know with Emily Jo! - Bearded Dragons
HISTORY BUFFS OF ALL AGES
We all love podcasts and audiobooks more than ever, but if you need to spice up your rotation, considering tapping into the Coney Island History Project. It’s as compelling, offbeat, and unexpected as Coney Island itself, with insight from playwrights like Gina Femia on why she sets all of her work there, calligrapher Lu Zhao on his journey from China’s Guangdong Province to Brooklyn, to musings from Robert Serrano Jr., a ride operator at Deno’s Wonder Wheel.
The George Eastman Museum in the Finger Lakes is opening up its archives with virtual tours, tutorials, podcasts, and access to 250,000+ images from the museum’s deep collection of photography and cinema history and ephemera.
George Eastman Museum's playful Instagram series "Behind the Scenes at Eastman Museum, featuring Badly Photoshopped Cats." Photos: George Eastman Museum
The Albany Institute of History & Art’s STEAM lesson plans are great for families who want to learn together. There is one downloadable lesson plan that focuses on Hudson River Art School landscape paintings, and another that focuses on sustainable development.
ANIMAL LOVERS OF ALL AGES
Who doesn’t want to watch frisky monkeys gambol around?
“The Bronx Zoo has been an amazing resource for my kids,” says Tara Gutman, an attorney who is trying to balance her caseload and the pressure of homeschooling two boys, ages 7 and 9. “They love animals, and so do I, and, because we literally can’t really leave the house much these days, it’s an easy and educational way to bring joy to us all.”
The Bronx Zoo has a collection of videos showing moments with the animals frolicking with each other and interacting with zookeepers, plus drawing videos and other informative tutorials that teach us a little bit more about the wild world that feels, these days, pretty out of reach.
Press play to watch Bronx Zoo: Little Penguin Chick Q&A
Story time feels more precious than ever. A variety of fabulous resources have cropped up online, to the never-ending joy of parents and children.
“Homeschooling and working at the same time is no joke,” says journalist and mother of two, ages 7 and 13, Lorraine Sullivan. “Sitting down with the kids everyday to listen to a story together has become a wonderful way to relax and unwind. And it’s still educational, so there’s no mom guilt!”
There’s Storytime Saturdays at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, online story time at The Brooklyn Public Library, and Storyline Online from SAG-AFTRA’s incredible archive of recordings from the likes of Viola Davis, Lily Tomlin, Rami Malek, and Annette Bening.
Press play to watch Let's Make Flagels from the Children's Museum of Manhattan
When things return to normal, is it possible that we will all — from tots to retirees — be slightly smarter, more open, curious, and engaged? Here’s to hoping and continuing to explore and grow even in seclusion!