Local art museum makes ‘pandemic-pivot’

Gabriel Hathaway, features reporter

Due to COVID-19, “Second Saturdays” at the Midwest Maritime Art Museum (MMAM) has been repurposed to become “Seasonal Saturdays” in a move that the Curator of Education at MMAM, Heather Casper, calls a “pandemic-pivot.”
This new title reflects the program’s new seasonal schedule, beginning March 1. To follow COVID guidelines, instead of having groups of people in MMAM every second Saturday, there are now take-home boxes that feature all the same activities to be picked up throughout the season.
“I have been doing nothing but Seasonal Saturdays since the beginning of the year, and we are so excited to launch it!” Casper said.
Constructed along the Mississippi River and opened in 2006, the MMAM is filled with a variety of artwork revolving around the theme of water. Offering free admission to students on Tuesdays, MMAM curates three major collections: American, European and Contemporary along with constantly changing exhibitions for viewing.
This location is also host to many educational and recreational activities that celebrate art. One such program is the now retooled Second Saturdays, which formerly offered 30-minute highlight tours, live music, art making projects, snacks and more at MMAM every second Saturday of each month starting in 2018.
There are 275 Seasonal Saturday take-home boxes offered each season, Spring (March 1-May 31), Summer (June 1-Aug. 31) and Fall (Sept. 1-Nov. 30). These limited boxes are first come, first serve. To get a box, visit https://www.mmam.org/seasonal-saturdays and register for a box.
Seasonal Saturday boxes are themed around each season, with the current springtime box called “Spring into Art.” Inside boxes are supplies for an activity like painting, a snack, a playlist designed to be listened to during the activity and $1 admission reservations to MMAM for recipients. Boxes are meant for groups of 2-6 but can be registered for a party of one.
Similar to Second Saturdays, Seasonal Saturdays continue the effort to make art accessible to everyone, Casper said.
According to Casper, the two main barriers to this goal for people are the cost of the tickets and a way to get to the museum. To solve these problems, there are reduced ticket prices for people who register and get their take-home boxes. There is also free transportation to and from MMAM through the Winona Area Transit Service’s Dial-A-Ride.
“Part of this program is just to make sure that we are making it accessible to people to come and give it a try,” Casper said. “Art is for everyone.”
Casper emphasizes how MMAM is supported by the community.
“This Seasonal Saturday program and these event boxes and the future programs are completely grant funded and sponsor funded,” Casper said. “We have had some fantastic people step forward and say, ‘Yes we believe in what you’re doing and we want to make sure, regardless of economic means, background, artistic experience, the museum is for everybody’.”
Sponsors that help make programs like Seasonal Saturdays and others possible at MMAM include: WND Financial, Winona Community Fund, The Water Main and an art access grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Second-year Winona State University student, Cole Krouch, commented about his positive experience with MMAM and said he would be interested in getting a Seasonal Saturdays box.
“My experience at MMAM was very enriching and exciting,” Krouch said. “It’s a place I’d definitely recommend checking out.”
Casper comments on why she believes the arts are important.
“I think the arts offer such an opportunity to discover joy in different ways,” Casper said. “It allows you to connect and discover and get excited about what you’re discovering and what you’re curious about.”
Looking forward, Casper hopes Seasonal Saturday programming will be back in-person early 2022 on select Saturdays.