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Museum of Eastern Idaho debuts first-ever virtual exhibit

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IDAHO FALLS — The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down cultural venues like museums and concert halls across the nation, leaving the staff of these establishments to come up with new ways to engage with their would-be patrons.

The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho is one of the thousands of institutions forced to find resourceful ways to serve the community in the face of the pandemic.

“TAM has always served as a cultural gathering place, but in the interest of the health and safety of visitors, volunteers and staff, TAM temporarily closed its doors to the public on March 17,” TAM Executive Director Miyai Abe Griggs told EastIdahoNews.com. “The temporary closure of the museum has drastically limited its ability to host field trips, classes, workshops, and camps, and school closures have meant museum educators have been unable to take art into area classrooms. April and May are typically some of the busiest months for field trips so it has been unusually quiet at TAM.”

The closure has forced the museum’s staff to work from home and compelled them to develop digital content. This has led the creation of do-at-home art classes and the museum’s first-ever virtual exhibit, “Women Artists from the TAM Collection.”

“‘Women Artists from the TAM Collection’ is as diverse in subject matter and media as the unique women who created them,” Griggs said. “Included in this exhibition are many of the pioneering women responsible for eastern Idaho’s rich artistic heritage. Without them, the art museum would not exist.”

“Women Artists” features the work of women like Helen Aupperle and Alice Trumblee, who have taught generations of east Idaho art students and influenced and enriched Idaho’s artistic legacy.

“The passion of these artists, many of whom pursued the drive to create as an artist while balancing the traditional roles of women is inspiring,” Griggs said.

Exhibits like “Women Artists” are a helpful way to keep art in the lives of people who are sheltering at home and can’t go out to museums. Griggs said there are a number of important roles art can play in peoples’ lives during the current health crisis.

“During a global pandemic, the arts can overcome language and cultural barriers and serve as a powerful means of uniting people,” she said. “Through the arts, we gain a greater understanding of ourselves and what it means to be human. During turbulent times, the arts can provide joy and hope. Creating art not only provides a means of escape and stress relief but can also be an important tool for self-expression and healing.”

While TAM is currently closed, Griggs anticipates reopening on Tuesday, June 2 and is excited for the public to once again come out to the museum.

“There is no substitute for seeing artwork in person,” she said. “While we are grateful for the technology that allows us to work remotely and present virtual exhibits for everyone’s health and safety, sitting in this very quiet, empty building that is normally bustling with so much activity, I am reminded that it is truly all the wonderful people associated with the museum–the visitors, members, school children, volunteers, staff, collaborators–who make TAM the cultural gathering place that it is. I look forward to welcoming everyone back to TAM– in person– soon!”

Until then, art lovers can visit “Women Artists from the TAM Collection,” as well as participate in do-it-at-home classes by visiting The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho website.

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