Last week, the Barnes Foundation launched “Barnes Takeout,” a bite-size serving of art history published daily on the Philadelphia collection’s YouTube channel. The new digital series sees curators, educators, and scholars share candid thoughts and observations on their favorite works from the museum.
From Modigliani to Matisse, and from Renoir to Rousseau, viewers get an intimate look at the paintings of canonical artists in 5-10 minute digestible doses. Whitewall checked in with the Barnes Foundation’s deputy director for research, education, and interpretation Martha Lucy to learn more about “Barnes Takeout,” as well as online classes being offered now.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us about how you came up with the idea of “Barnes Takeout”?
MARTHA LUCY: We knew we wanted to continue sharing our collection with our visitors. We also felt that it would be nice to offer something that people could look forward to every day—a short, light, digestible segment that was also educational to keep people stimulated and engaged, to keep spirits up.
WW: How will you and your colleagues continue to choose one piece per day to look at?
ML: We are choosing things that we love talking about and that move us each of us in some way. It’s always more interesting to listen to someone talk about something that moves them personally. We are also trying to choose things that are uplifting—works that have a strong human element, or that we might relate to the quarantine and what people are experiencing. But I think as we continue the main criterion will be: what works are you excited about and what do you most want to share with people?
WW: The first two editions have already gotten over 10 thousand views each. What are your initial thoughts on viewer engagement and response?
ML: We are so happy with the response. People are clearly hungry for stimulating content—and I think viewers have been surprised by how pleasant it is to learn about these works online. Hopefully they will come see the real thing with new eyes when we reopen!
WW: What kind of digital content on the Barnes Foundation’s website would you recommend for those who want a bit more?
ML: Check out our online classes. We’ll be offering five new ones every month, in the afternoons, so you can have lunch and then tune in and see our fabulous instructors talking about all sorts of different topics. They’re similar in feel to “Barnes Takeout,” but of course they go into much more in depth.
It’s also fun to go to the Barnes website and explore the online collection. You can search the collection in unusual ways—by color, by shape, etc. It’s fun to play around with it. There are more scholarly features, too, such as “Research Notes,” which are short essays highlighting recent discoveries we’ve made about things in the collection.
WW: How has this moment provided an opportunity for you to look at the collection in a new way?
ML: At the Barnes there is so much happening on each wall that sometimes it’s hard to focus on just one thing. So, this video series, where concentrate on a single work, has given us an opportunity to dive deep with the viewer—to take time and look slowly, talking people through the painting. It’s relaxing actually. And because we’ve got these super high res images, you can zoom way in on individual marks and brushstrokes and see things you can’t normally see.
WW: Where are you personally finding inspiration and hope during this time?
ML: I am finding myself continually inspired by my colleagues at the Barnes. We’ve had to change everything about how we operate, how we communicate with each other, how we think about education. It’s unchartered territory and it has been stressful, especially because we felt the need to move quickly. But my coworkers have been so creative and so calm. There’s a sense of excitement that we are doing something positive.
In my non-work life, I feel a sense of hope anytime I see someone doing something kind for someone else.