By Maria Mingalone
In the first weeks of the governor’s stay-at-home order, decisions at Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) were made rapidly in an environment that was changing hourly. No one gave us an instruction manual to operate through a pandemic—it was like flying a plane while building it.
COVID-19 has been widely democratic, indiscriminately impacting across industries large and small, for-profit and nonprofit. Faced with this new challenge, OMA has been finding new and creative ways to thrive and become stronger as we lift the spirits of our audiences and the prosperity of our community in the process.
OMA has always been about bringing people together, although now with a different set of constraints and opportunities. We’ve shifted our model to reach audiences at home to provide inspiration, and even lighthearted diversion with live-streamed, virtual, and remotely-accessed educational, and cultural experiences.These programs connect the OMA community with regional talent via artist talks, virtual studio visits, hands-on art workshops, livestream lectures, and more.
Our programs are reaching farther into the community than ever before. More people are joining live stream and virtual programs than could have traditionally participated onsite at the museum—making the OMA experience even more inclusive and accessible.OMA’s virtual programming has attracted people from around the country, as we redefine what a museum experience can be. We see the results in the number of people who consistently tune in—doubling and quadrupling former participation.
In another new venture, OMA is bringing the biennial art auction, which was canceled in March, to an online platform, and creating live stream events that highlight the artists whose work is being auctioned. The auction promotes art purchases for regional artists at a time when art sales will area much needed financial boost to those in the cultural sector who are hurting. It will also help to generate income for the museum from what would have otherwise been a total loss.
OMA continues to work with our educational partners to ignite a love of learning by using art to improve social connections. With newly created OMAgination boxes, we will be bringing hands-on art making activities to residential families at the Women’s Resource Center. Using the healing power of art engagement, this new initiative has been developed to help those in need of some inspiration and a healthy diversion to reduce stress, anxiety, and engaging alternatives for screen-time weary eyes.
OMA arts educators are prepared to find new creative ways to spark young learners' curiosity through online distance learning platforms in partnership with OUSDin the fall, if necessary.These programs--ArtQuest and Literacy Through Art--bridge the arts, science, and literacy curriculums for a future generation of leaders.
Like many in our community, I am concerned about how the economy will rebound, and what recovery will look like for everyone affected.
Here is where I hope those who don’t realize the impact the arts have will pay close attention.The arts are more than a privilege and a luxury.
The individual community members who built OMA 23 years ago did so for two distinct reasons. Some wanted an artistic center of merit in their own city rather than travel to LosAngeles or San Diego. Others did so because they were interested in building a community hub, and whether they knew it then or not, they were also building a critical piece in the local economy that would elevate the reputation of the city by creating a cultural destination.
The arts are a cornerstone to tourism. OMA attracts people to the region and offers meaningful ways for people to connect with one another. Those bonds are not only important for community connections among residents, but they also provide equally beneficial economic benefits as arts audiences venture to nearby restaurants, shops, and attractions in connection with their museum visit.
Like other small businesses in downtown Oceanside, the museum employs staff and buys goods and services—not to mention markets and promotes the region in which we exist. If OMA were to fail, so much more will be lost than a museum.
OMA is centerstage in one of only 14 designated California Cultural Districts and a key partner in the City of Oceanside’s cultural master plan—a civic nod to the value the arts play in the life and welfare of a community.
We continue to maintain connections with community members, volunteers, and artists, and at a time when the museum doors are closed, continue to expand the OMA community. OMA is not only retaining members, we are continuing to attract and welcome new members.Many continue to support OMA because they have experienced first-hand the power art has to make a difference in their lives on many levels—socially, educationally, and financially.
Going home and waiting it out was never an option. That would have left a critical hole in the social fabric of our community.Universally, the OMA team has felt it is important to remain a vibrant resource in service of our community.During the recovery OMA commits to continue to play an important economic role in the local business community and further its social role in the lives of our residents and visitors.