While lockdown rules are starting to loosen around the world, we’re still very much in the early stages of life returning to normal. And although many of us can technically work from home, being able to share files and have Zoom meetings over broadband is only half of the equation. Being creative requires a certain degree of inspiration and stimulation, and many of our favourite sources have now been shut off for several weeks.
So if you’re feeling your creative energies starting to falter, perhaps it’s time to think outside the box. While virtual alternatives to your cancelled activities might not be your preferred choice, they’re well worth investigating, and in some ways may even be a superior experience. In this post, we look at five things designers are craving right now, and where you can go to get your virtual fix.
01. Take a live art class
There have always been many ways to learn art via the web, and we round up the best online art classes on a regular basis. But what if on-demand videos don’t work for you, and you need the immediacy of a live class?
The good news is that in these lockdown times, there are plenty of those too. London Drawing, for example, is running temporary online creative sessions via Zoom to keep people creating and connected. On the other side of the Atlantic (but open to the whole world), Art Studio New York is doing the same thing, across its six online studios. Alternatively, for a slightly more anarchic take on live art classes, check out the regular Facebook sessions of Dr Sketchy Live, in which two performer-models pose in extravagant costumes, and participants sketch them, before sharing their drawings with each other online.
02. Attend a creative conference
Hearing inspiring talks by your design heroes is a great way to recharge your batteries. Thankfully this year, many great creative events are moving online. Approaching soonest is Adobe’s 99U Conference, which will take place virtually via Behance, on 17 June. Speakers will include Anna Sale, Yancey Strickler, Kelli Anderson, John S Couch and Nishat Akhtar. Best of all, it's totally free to register for the event.
Other events that will be free to attend online this year include Primer (22-27 June), the annual conference from the Design Futures Initiative; D&AD's New Blood Digital Festival 2020 (6-10 July), a virtual exhibition of student work and five days of digital talks and workshop; Pictoplasma’s In Isolation event (18-19 September), which will include talks from Dan Woodger, Genie Espinosa, Jing Wei and Hattie Stewart; and Adobe MAX (19-21 October), for which registration will open in late summer.
03. Visit an art gallery or museum
Being able to wander around an art gallery or museum is something a lot of us are missing right now. So it’s heartening that you can at least peruse many of the world’s most famous cultural institutions virtually, via Google Street View.
These include the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, home to masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer; the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which houses the collection of the famed de'Medici family; MASP in Sau Paulo, Brazil’s premiere modern art museum; the John Paul Getty Museum in California; the Guggenheim in New York; and plenty more besides. You can find a full list of museum street views on Google here.
Meanwhile, many art galleries and museums not on Google Street View offer virtual tours via their own websites, including The Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museum in Rome, and The Broad in Los Angeles.
04. Catch a show
Since the lockdown began, we’ve seen a number of the world’s leading theatres share their shows for free online, including London's National Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and many more. (For a full list, Whats on Stage has a list of free streams that it's constantly updating.)
It’s amazing that these performances are available to watch for free, but ultimately they are all prerecorded, and so that special feeling of watching live is sadly missing. You can get that, though, from The Shows Must Go Online, in which a group of actors use video conferencing to perform a live Shakepeare play together every week. Okay, they’re performing in front of their individual webcams and not on a big stage, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, ‘proper’ live theatre is on its way back shortly in the UK, with the government giving the go-ahead for cultural events to happen from this month onwards, albeit behind closed doors. The first will be a socially distanced version of Duncan MacMillan's play Lungs, with Claire Foy and Matt Smith. This will be live-streamed from London’s Old Vic, from 26 June to 4 July, with a stricly limited number of tickets on sale now.
05. Enjoy a film festival
It’s great that we can sit at home right now and stream the latest movies to our TV screens (don’t miss our roundup of ways to stream TV and movies for free). But while watching movies on-demand, at a time and date of our choosing, is wonderful, it can’t match the communal buzz of watching something along with a big audience in the cinema.
Sadly, the time when we’ll be able to head to the local Odeon again seems a long way off. But a number of virtual film festivals are aiming to recreate the spirit of live cinema during lockdown, by bringing together unreleased movies and organising mass viewings online.
For example, there’s the ongoing Quarantine Film Festival being held by The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, but available to viewers the world over. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday they’re calling for the best short films to be submitted, and on Friday at 7pm local time, they have a streaming party on their Facebook page where they show that week's two winning shorts.
Other forthcoming virtual film festivals are set to include Long Distance Film Fest, which takes place 19-21 June; Couch Film Festival, which is planned for 29 June, and the Melbourne International Film Festival, which will take place online from 6-23 August.