Palmer Museum of Art engages community through immersive virtual programs

April 15, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State has flung open its virtual doors to share an exciting array of new digital content and educational resources with friends and audiences from the Penn State community and beyond.

Despite its current temporary physical closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Palmer has committed to providing access to its exhibitions and programming online and invites visitors both near and far to experience the #museumfromhome, a worldwide digital movement that allows art lovers and audiences to remain engaged with their favorite arts institutions from home via social media platforms, virtual exhibitions and gallery talks, online content, and more.

“Though the galleries are temporarily closed, we have successfully migrated to the digital arena and are delivering our programming to audiences online,” said Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “We encourage virtual visitors to connect with us on our social media platforms and website to view new online exhibitions and other digital content and to experience the Palmer from home.”

New digital content from the museum is easily accessed via the website at and can be experienced from any smart phone, tablet or computer. Offerings include virtual exhibitions and galleries, hands-on art-making activities, live online programs, and other options that are updated regularly. 

Virtual visitors can enjoy exploring two of the Palmer’s spring exhibitions, "African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting and Drawing on a Legacy: Highlights from the John Driscoll American Drawings Collection," through their respective online catalogues with no need to worry about parking.

For those missing the Palmer’s series of programs like Friday gallery talks or monthly Pop Up exhibits, the museum is scheduling online versions of these popular events, such as the new interactive exhibition "Photography=Abstraction," a virtual pop-up by graduate assistant Keri Mongelluzzo, that features insightful videos, text and images about photographs from the museum’s collection.

Audiences can also join live events from their homes. On Monday, April 20, virtual visitors can sit in on a gallery talk, discussion, and real-time Q&A about "African Brilliance" with Bill Dewey, associate professor of art history and co-curator of the much-acclaimed show. On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, online visitors can tune in to a gallery talk by doctoral candidate Melissa Leaym-Fernandez, co-curator of the exhibition "Grounded: Environments in Flux."

For kids and families looking for creative outlets, the Palmer has hands-on art-making activities and educational videos, such as downloadable coloring pages, how to weave on a cardboard loom, or how to make an egg carton Mancala board, all based on objects in "African Brilliance." There is also an inventive, found-object activity inspired by an “assemblage” by noted 20th-century sculptor Louise Nevelson. Each of the activities is simple and can be done with supplies from around the house.

“The Palmer's education team, which is made up of museum staff, graduate assistants, interns and docents, has been working to creatively engage our visitors remotely,” said museum educator Brandi Breslin. “We're proud of the virtual exhibitions, gallery talks, and at-home art activities we've shared over the past few weeks, and we're continuing to develop more.”

Breslin said she was especially excited about upcoming projects, including more virtual tours, lectures and videos, as well as helpful resources to support educators and parents as they incorporate arts-based learning into their remote teaching.

Along with its virtual online programs, experiences and activities, electronic audience members can also engage with the museum through its social media platforms. Via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the Palmer is joining other museums to fill feeds with beautiful and meditative images through well-known hashtags like #MuseumBouquet and #MuseumMomentofZen as a break from other more serious news content.

The Palmer Museum of Art has a growing number of virtual resources to explore from the comfort of your home. For a comprehensive list of the museum’s digital content, visit our Virtual Museum Resources page at Offerings are updated regularly, so check back often for new programs and activities.

For a list of some of our upcoming and ongoing resources, see below.​


​​Join the Palmer Museum of Art “live” online for these upcoming gallery talks on current exhibitions. Connect remotely to see images and hear curators’ comments. Participate with real-time Q&A. See individual listings for web links to join in via Zoom. For questions about these scheduled talks, email Brandi Breslin, museum educator, at

Monday, April 20, 11 a.m.

"African Brilliance: A Diplomat's Sixty Years of Collecting," William Dewey, associate professor of art history. Link to join:

Wednesday, April 22, Earth Day, 1 p.m.

"Grounded: Environments in Flux," Melissa Leaym-Fernandez, doctoral candidate in art education and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. Link to join:


'African Brilliance' coloring pages

Looking for new coloring ideas for the kids? or for yourself to keep calm and create? Our coloring pages feature artwork from "African Brilliance: A Diplomat's Sixty Years of Collecting." Download the images to print and color or save them on your phone, tablet or computer to use with a coloring app. Created by Palmer Museum graduate assistant Chelsea Borgman. Access the coloring pages on the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or at

Downloadable drawing pages featuring "African Brilliance"

Downloadable drawing pages featuring work from the "African Brilliance" exhibit.

IMAGE: Penn State

Assemblage activity, inspired by Louise Nevelson

This short activity video is a fun and easy art project using supplies from around the house. It walks you through making an “assemblage,” inspired by one of artist Louise Nevelson's works in the Palmer’s permanent collection, "Diminishing Reflection XXIII."

Nevelson (1899-1988) was an American sculptor known for creating large-scale sculptures from used, cast-off, and found materials. She referred to herself as "the original recycler" because of her extensive use of discarded objects. After collecting, cutting, and manipulating everyday materials, she would assemble them into large 3D collages and spray them a single, unifying color, often black. Her use of color served to disguise the material's original purpose and highlight the visual elements of line, space, shape and repetition within her composition. Once done with your assemblage, you can send photos of your finished creations to or post a pic and tag us on social media. Created by Palmer Museum education intern Jules Edelmann.

To view the art activity video, visit the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or view the video on YouTube.

Mancala gameboard, inspired by 'African Brilliance'

Many kids and families love to play Mancala. It’s a simple game that rewards players who master its challenges with thoughtful strategy. If you’re looking for a new game to try at home, this video guides you through creating your own Mancala gameboard using a recycled egg carton.

The activity was inspired by the Palmer’s exhibition "African Brilliance," which features an intricately carved wooden gameboard in the likeness of a ram — considered a fiercely competitive animal. Created by Palmer Museum education intern Hanna Thornton. To view the DIY Mancala gameboard video, visit the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or view the art activity video on YouTube. (For instructions on how to play Mancala, click here.)

Weaving activity, inspired by "'African Brilliance'

Looking to stay creative at home? This video features an easy and relaxing weaving activity, complete with tips on how to use supplies from around the house to create a loom and even make your own materials. This activity was inspired by the Palmer’s exhibition "African Brilliance," which features beautiful woven raffia textiles made by the Kuba people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Created by Palmer Museum education intern Jules Edelmann. To view the art activity video, visit the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or view the video on YouTube.


'African Brilliance: A Diplomat’s Sixty Years of Collecting'

Explore this illuminating exhibition through an extensive online catalogue that features text entries, high resolution images with three-dimensional views of the objects, and contextual videos. View the online catalogue here.

'Drawing on a Legacy: Highlights from the John Driscoll American Drawings Collection'

View the exhibition online through high-resolution images, text selections and a photo gallery. View the exhibit here.

'Photography=Abstraction' Pop Up Exhibition

This virtual pop-up exhibition is an interactive gallery with images, text and informational videos for selected works. Once “inside,” explore by using your mouse or touch screen to click the navigational buttons included throughout the presentation as you tour the virtual gallery.  Curated by Keri Mongelluzzo, doctoral candidate in art history.

This exhibit will be available until June 30. Note: using the Chrome browser may optimize your experience.

To view this exhibit, visit the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or view it here.

Still from the Palmer's "Photography=Abstraction" virtual Pop Up exhibition

Still from the Palmer's "Photography=Abstraction" virtual Pop Up exhibition, available online until June 30.

IMAGE: Penn State

Benjamin and Lillian K. Snowiss Gallery of American Art

Tour through the Palmer's first floor Snowiss Gallery via a virtual gallery walkthrough. Once the video begins, use your mouse, trackpad or touchscreen to pan and adjust your view to move around within the virtual gallery. Look up, down, or even turn side-to-side to see different works of art. To walk through the gallery, visit the Virtual Museum Resources page of our website or view it here on YouTube.


“Visitors” can explore around 9,200 objects from the Palmer’s expanding permanent collection through its Collections Database, housed on Penn State’s University Libraries site. Search genres, artists or keywords to explore the virtual vaults of the museum. View the Collections Database here.

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission, arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,600 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

The museum is currently closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and for a calendar of upcoming virtual events, visit

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a new University Art Museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building will dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It will be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture, and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at

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Last Updated April 17, 2020