The Theatre of Digital Art in Dubai is an unforgettable and unique attraction, part of a global movement towards disseminating the arts digitally. The exhibition was brought to life with a streaming of some famous artists’ works, with a curated musical playlist that made the show ever more whimsical.
Among my favourites were Claude Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond, Woman with a Parasol, and other botanical paintings that were simply breathtaking. Not to mention Vincent Van Gogh’s dreamy The Starry Night with its sublime, almost fluid blue and yellow strokes, scenes of pastoral bliss in Provence, and sunflowers filling up the theatre with its exuberance.
Lockdowns across the globe have kept most of us housebound and unable to visit much-loved museums, art galleries, opera houses, public libraries, and other cultural attractions.
Nevertheless, the pandemic has inspired the arts sector to engage with fans via a digital revolution, offering a comprehensive and unprecedented access to renowned cultural works, easily accessible via electronic devices, reaching a wider audience regardless of geography or income, and free of cost.
As such, we have witnessed many cities and famous cultural institutions offering a suite of offerings, such as virtual museum tours, electronic books, audiobooks, live-stream concerts and performances, and creative activities in an effort to keep audiences raptured. Furthermore, many artists in confinement have been sharing their creative journeys with their audiences via podcasts, blogs, or live masterclasses on social media.
Google Arts & Culture remains a favourite haven for accessing treasured collections from over 2,000 leading museums under one online platform.
At a whim, culture enthusiasts can immerse themselves in virtual tours of famous museums, such as the National Gallery in London, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Palace of Versailles in France, or the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in South Korea.
Additionally, people can access high-resolution photos and videos of the collections, including Art Camera, which acts as a special tour of paintings and allows art lovers to zoom into beloved artworks whilst reading important commentaries. The site also has an array of fascinating editorial pieces on key artists, artistic movements, and themes. Families with children can spend an afternoon playing fun online games, colouring book activities, crosswords, and trivia.
Project Gutenberg can enthral any literary lover with its collection of over 60,000 free eBooks, according to classics, children’s books, history, and crime. For bibliophiles who would like to delve into literary classics, the site includes titles such as The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. There is also a dedicated bookshelf for children’s books, such as Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Another fantastic initiative during this pandemic is how the city of Bogota reimagined the role of its public libraries in engaging with its citizens. BiblioRed is a digital public library consisting of free, accessible books online.
A quick search of its children’s books yields a gorgeous, illustrated collection that is easily accessible online and inspires parents to enjoy storytelling to their children from their homes. Titles include much-loved works, such as Beauty and the Beast, Fables by F. M. Samaniego, One Thousand and One Nights, and Jungle Tales by Horacio Quiroga.
Perhaps their most inspiring initiative is the Café Literario, which is a virtual literary cafe that brings together people every Wednesday to discuss interesting topics, ranging from writers in confinement and Latin American female writers to Afro-Latino writings and science fiction.
The timeless city of Rome is dubbed as a Unesco Creative City of Film and has a rich heritage of producing renowned motions pictures, not to mention hosting the annual International Rome Film Festival. During the lockdown this year, the city launched a film-based initiative titled #Cinemadacasa to share films with citizens whilst they are housebound.
Every evening at 10pm during the project period, films were projected on urban building facades across the city, featuring wonderful classics, vintage films, and feel-good movies. This innovative initiative has done wonders for promoting social cohesion, celebrating creativity, and improving well-being at such challenging times.
Many famous opera houses around the world have been streaming their renowned performances online for free, such as The Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Opéra National de Paris.
For example, opera lovers have enjoyed the Vienna State Opera’s free streaming of its beloved performances, such as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Madame Butterfly, and the Elixir of Love. Additionally, there is a special opera program for children to enjoy, such as the Magic Flute, Cinderella, and Hansel and Gretel.
On the other hand, The Royal Opera House offers free children’s classes revolving around dramatic singing, arts and craft for theatre stages, and recreating ballet moves in famous performances, such as Alice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker. The Metropolitan Opera’s website has short opera guides for newcomers, in addition to many synopses, articles, podcasts, and interviews that ruminate on their exquisite masterpieces.
The arts have been a wonderful recompense during this lockdown and we can certainly thank global digital efforts to bring its sublime messages right to our homes and most importantly, our souls.
Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and literature. She can be contacted via www.amorelicious.com.