Pensacola Art Museum Captures The Mood Of COVID-19

Jun 25, 2020

The Pensacola Museum of Art has reached deep into their in-house collection for an exhibit that symbolizes the mood of the coronavirus pandemic.

“All of the works are from our permanent collection,” said Anna Wall, the chief curator at the Pensacola Museum of Art. “In addition to all of the traveling exhibitions that we bring to Pensacola, we actually have a collection of 700 art works on site that are for exhibition, research, they are really a resource for the community.”

Museums around the country are dealing with traveling exhibitions being cancelled due to the coronavirus. When the same thing happened to the local museum, Wall decided to showcase some works of art that were already on hand in an exhibition called, “A Question of When – Selections from the Permanent Collection." She also tried to capture what she and her colleagues were feeling during the pandemic. 

"A Question of When", displayed at the Pensacola Museum of Art, features work across a multitude of mediums from numerous artists, all expressing their perspectives on societal shift brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit UWF

“It was interesting, I made the selection in the first couple of weeks of the shutdown and the pandemic," she said. "So it was me in the vault, by myself, being influenced a lot by recent events, my own feelings on what was going on, and compared to some other exhibitions it does have more of a personal touch. But I really tried to bring in current events and how my colleagues and everyone was feeling about the world.” 

The museum recently obtained additional storage space for its collection, so a lot of these pieces were going to be moved soon anyway. This exhibit gave Wall a chance to showcase parts of the permanent collection that either have never been on display, or haven’t been seen in many years.

“In this first gallery here, a lot of the artwork, just through its imagery, evokes the feelings of isolation during social distancing and during the shutdown of businesses and the museum," she said on a tour through the exhibit. 

Wall pointed to a mono-print by Mary Frank showing a woman in free-fall she says brings out feelings of isolation, uncertainty and the unknown.

“There’s a photograph by Walker Evans of a campaign poster of Herbert Hoover that was done in 1929. And Hoover’s presidency occurred during the Great Depression and the stock market crash, echoing current economic situations and our own crisis. And then there’s this wonderful portrait of Georgia O’Keefe by (photographer) Yousuf Karsh. It shows Georgia O’Keefe in her home. She chose where she would be seated for the portrait and it’s in (the) doorway of her house in New Mexico. You see these beautiful antlers above her. She’s by herself, evoking isolation, loneliness at the time but also showing the importance of home, as we all spend so much time there over the past few months."

There are paintings, sculpture, photographs and mixed media artwork through the exhibition, all related to that common theme. Wall says that given the current situation in the country, more museums will be relying on their permanent collections. 

Credit UWF

“The pandemic has created a huge budget shortfall museums. They are being hit really hard economically. Bringing in those big traveling exhibitions is very expensive. So I think a lot more museums will look to their permanent collection to curate shows to do more content since it’s a resource that’s right at their fingertips at home.”

The Pensacola Museum of Art has been reopened for about a month on a two day a week schedule. They have now moved to three days a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Wall says that gives the staff time to give the building a good cleaning between open days. Masks are not required but are encouraged and will be available at the front desk. And guests should purchase their tickets on line before arriving at the museum at pensacolamuseum.org. The exhibit runs through September 6.