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Bringing the Museum to Your Doorstep During the Pandemic

BYU alumna Katie Seastrand wins the Utah Museum Educator of the Year Award.

On Saturday, March 26, Katie Seastrand (Art History and Curatorial Studies, ’16) was named Utah Museum Educator of the Year by the Utah Art Education Association. Seastrand manages school and teacher programs at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA), where her creative solutions made art accessible to students in a time of social distancing and closed museums. Her creation of exciting new art programs (such as virtual guided museum tours) and her dedication to continuing student art education earned her the award.

Hired in September 2019, Seastrand was excited to create engaging art experiences for students. Traditional art education includes museum visits and school lectures about art. When the pandemic hit in spring 2020, these kinds of events suddenly became impossible. That didn’t deter Seastrand, who began developing virtual alternatives to bring art to students wherever they might be.

The first virtual alternative that Seastrand led was the assembly and distribution of art kits that helped students continue creating art from home. Seastrand knew that giving kids the tools to create might not be enough, so she recorded videos about various art pieces that students could watch to get inspired. But she didn’t want to leave anything up to chance. Seastrand wanted to meet with the people she was directly hoping to influence: students and teachers. So she reached out to hundreds of teachers and thousands of students in her work to connect art to the classroom.

Populations that are typically underserved received a myriad of Seastrand’s new programs to foster visual art experiences. Students can find these programs on the UMFA website, where they can complete activities from anywhere with Wi-Fi access. For example, they can participate in an interactive dance video called “Creative Leaps,” take a guided digital tour, watch a webinar on art-based topics, or participate in a guided meditation on color theory.

The amount of passion in this virtually interactive reimagining of art education renewed the UMFA during an otherwise difficult time. Seastrand says, “Using art in classrooms not only provides opportunities for students to learn on their own terms but can also help with stress and social-emotional learning. Students need room to be free and creative to bring what they want to the paper, canvas, clay, or other medium. Art education is an empowering space and outlet for emotions, anxieties, or experiences that may not easily be expressed through words” (Utah Art Education Association). Readers can visit the UMFA’s website in the link provided to experience the art firsthand.