Palmer Museum of Art begins summer of expansive virtual programs

June 23, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State has announced a full slate of engaging virtual programs for the summer. The online gallery talks and art-making activities are among the latest digital and educational initiatives offered by the museum as it prepares to reopen in the fall. All of the programs can be accessed through the museum’s website at and experienced from any smartphone, tablet or computer.

The Palmer’s transition to the digital arena began when it temporarily closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the three months since it has expanded its online content, the museum’s social media engagement increased dramatically across all platforms. Facebook followers grew by 485% with total “likes” increasing by 588% and reach expanding by 36%. On Instagram, followers increased by 70% and engagements grew by 34%.

“These dramatic increases on our social media platforms demonstrate the impact of our approach and strategy,” said Palmer Museum Director Erin Coe. “The surge in our online engagement also demonstrates the significance of digital communications and our own digital presence during this unprecedented time we’ve been living through. It has challenged and inspired the museum staff to think about how we engage our audiences in new and more effective ways, which has been both enlightening and rewarding.”

Summer online programs include biweekly Friday gallery talks with curators and graduate students, a digital spinoff of the Palmer’s popular series of in-gallery conversations about individual works, artists or themes in the collection. Upcoming talks will feature Baroque paintings, women artist-activists, recent gifts and much more. Virtual visitors can join through a Zoom link, view a live presentation and ask questions using the Q&A feature on the video call.

For individuals, kids and families looking to experience the collection in a new way, the museum’s innovative “Sketchbook Series” offers weekly videos featuring simple art activities inspired by works of art in the Palmer’s permanent collection. Created by the museum’s educational team including staff, graduate assistants and interns, the exercises are designed for all ages and artistic skill levels. Viewers who tune in to the series via the Palmer’s YouTube channel will be encouraged to experiment with new techniques and explore creative ways to sketch using basic supplies from home.  

“The entire team is very excited about the sketchbook series, and we're all enjoying making sample pages inspired by artwork in the collection,” said Brandi Breslin, museum educator at the Palmer. “A surprise bonus for me is that it's become a family activity, where we spread our supplies on the dining table, turn on some music and doodle. It's easy, relaxing and a nice way to spend time together.”

Thanks to support from the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative, the Palmer has partnered with local art supplier Uncle Eli’s to provide 75 supply kits to people and families in the community who want to follow along but may need supplies. Each kit will contain a sketchbook, colored pencils, sharpener, eraser and drawing pen, which  can be picked up at Uncle Eli’s in downtown State College. Registration is required, and you can sign up at this link: Supplies are limited and are capped at one kit per email address and two kits overall per household.

In addition to the weekly sketchbook series, there will be a live, online Sip & Sketch gathering on Friday, July 17. Artists of all ages and levels can gather sketchbook supplies and a few snacks to enjoy creative activities, discussion and art-related games with the Palmer education team. Breakout sessions will allow for smaller group interaction, and there will be separate rooms for kids/families and adults. Follow the Palmer’s social media channels for more information as well as the registration link.

The Palmer’s robust online programming will continue through the summer and early fall as the museum staff turns its attention to making plans to reopen the facility to the public. The Palmer is taking the necessary steps to meet or exceed the requirements for public health set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the University, with the well-being and safety of visitors, staff and the campus community as the museum's top priority. The Palmer also has developed a survey to assess the community’s comfort level with returning to the museum and what it can do to maximize visitor comfort and safety, as well as gather thoughts on future programming. Responses are due by Sunday, June 28, and the survey can be accessed by clicking this link.

For a comprehensive list of the Palmer Museum of Art’s virtual programs, experiences, art activities and other digital content, visit the 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 programs, see below.


Experience the museum collection in a new way – at home with art supplies. Tune in to this weekly online video series to get creative ideas and inspiration for simple, low-key art activities that can be done with basic supplies: paper, pencil and color (such as crayons, markers or colored pencils). All ages and artistic skill levels are encouraged to participate, and a variety of ideas will be demonstrated in each video. This is not an instruction-based class focused on building skills, but rather an opportunity to experiment with new techniques and explore the potential of a blank page, with new videos released every week through July 31.

#1 - Introduction -

#2 - LAYLAH ALI - Learn about artist Laylah Ali and follow along with a prompt inspired by her work, including a print from the Palmer Museum of Art's permanent collection:

#3 - HENRY PEARSON - Sketch along while we investigate rhythm and movement through the abstract lines and colors of artist Henry Pearson:

#4 – Coming soon - ABSTRACTED LANDSCAPES – Get creative with a prompt inspired by the graphic works of Alex Katz, Georgia O’Keeffe and other artists from the collection.

Need sketchbook supplies to participate? Seventy-five supply kits are available thanks to support from the Art Bridges + Terra Foundation Initiative and a partnership with local art supplier Uncle Eli’s. Each kit will contain a sketchbook, colored pencils, sharpener, eraser and drawing pen. Supplies are limited to one kit per email address and two kits overall per household. To register while supplies last, visit

Friday, July 17, 6 p.m.

Live Sip & Sketch

Join the Palmer Museum’s education team for a live, online gathering with your sketchbook supplies and snacks. Enjoy creative activities, discussion and possibly art-related games. Breakout sessions will allow for smaller group interaction, and there will be separate rooms for kids/families and adults. Keep an eye on the website or Palmer communications for more information and the link to register.


​​Join the Palmer Museum of Art on Friday afternoons at 12:10 p.m. for enlightening talks on selected works from the permanent collection. Talks will take place via Zoom. See individual listings for web links. If you have questions about these scheduled talks, email Brandi Breslin, museum educator, at

Friday, June 26, 12:10 p.m.

Collection Focus: Old Master Paintings

Patrick McGrady, Charles V. Hallman Senior Curator

Link to join:

Join McGrady to discover the drama and naturalism of Baroque paintings in the collection.

Friday, July 10, 12:10 p.m.

Women in Art: Activism + Resistance

Chelsea Borgman, graduate assistant in art education and women’s, gender and sexuality studies

Link to join:

The year 2020 marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women’s constitutional right to vote. Join us to celebrate this milestone and discover amazing women artists in the Palmer’s collection.

Friday, July 24, 12:10 p.m.

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

Adam Thomas, curator of American art

Link to join:

Revisit this special exhibition with Thomas, who will showcase a selection of watercolors and drawings from the recent gifts by longtime Penn State and Palmer Museum supporter John Driscoll.

Friday, Aug. 7, 12:10 p.m.

Collection Focus: An Introduction to the Tavern Collection

Patrick McGrady, Charles V. Hallman Senior Curator

Link to join:

Enjoy historic views of central Pennsylvania and learn about this intriguing set of prints collected by the original owners of State College’s Tavern Restaurant.

Friday, Aug. 28, 12:10 p.m.

From Social Realism to Photo Realism: Post-1945 Highlights from the Palmer Bequest

Joyce Robinson, assistant director

Link to join:

Enjoy a lively presentation by Robinson, who will shine a light on contemporary artists in the collection.

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.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and  noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays and is temporarily closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming 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 would dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It would 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

Last Updated July 08, 2020