Elizabeth Hoy, “Preliminary Assessment,” 2017, mixed media installation, 26 x 33 x 25 inches, from CMCA’s digital-only exhibit, “Simulacrush,” up through September. Photo courtesy of the artist and CMCA

Want proof that art matters? All you have to do is look at social media in the age of social distancing. In this uncharted land of canceled culture, more and more people are sharing links to virtual tours of museums throughout the world. It’s not that we’ve run out of cat videos or have binge-watched every imaginable series. (Though “Game of Thrones” has become too much like following Congress, anyway.) In uncertain times like these, art feels especially essential — in all of its visually mesmerizing, emotionally empowering, soul-nourishing, consciousness-expanding, culturally commentating, community-connecting, life-affirming humanity. Art heals. Art helps. Art hopes.

While being able to explore Spain’s Guggenheim Bilbao or Paris’ Musée d’Orsay from one’s sofa is an art lover’s digital dream come true, Mainers should also plan virtual visits to arts institutions here in the Pine Tree State. It may seem like a small thing, but during these hours of social separation, it can help us feel more linked to this place that we love.

The museum and gallery websites listed alongside this review feature detailed archives of permanent collections, past exhibits and selected works from prematurely shuttered shows. All of them include Maine artists and are worth a leisurely scroll.

Will Sears, “Peppered,” 2019, colored pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, from CMCA’s digital-only exhibit, “Simulacrush,” up through September. Photo courtesy of the artist and CMCA

Not only is the Center for Maine Contemporary Art is the sole location listed to feature three-dimensional tours of all of its exhibits online —including “Skirting the Line: Painting Between Abstraction and Representation,” the fascinating spring show that was up for all of two days before CMCA closed — but the boundary-pushing institution also has a digital-only exhibit on its website. “Simulacrush,” which runs through September, is the debut show in a new series called “[ON]now,” the goal of which is to introduce the work of Maine-focused artists to a worldwide online audience.

CMCA may be more cutting edge than most of its colleagues, but, in an effort to address our new normal, other venues are thinking more innovatively about online content as well. On Saturday afternoon, for example, Grant Wahlquist Gallery presented an online screening of Katie Vida’s award-winning, experimental film “Shelly,” followed by a live Q&A with the artist. And the Portland Museum of Art has updated its website with articles, podcasts and videos, including an in-depth Vimeo conversation with Carrie Moyer and Sheila Pepe about their extraordinary exhibit “Tabernacles for Trying Times.” (And yes, the irony of shutting down a show meant to promote community and connectivity in the name of social distancing is impossible to ignore.) The imaginative minds at the PMA even suggest art activities, such as “No Look” contour drawing, to help couch potatoes get their creativity on.

For those feeling bummed about Maine’s bash-free bicentennial, bake yourself some cupcakes and head over to the Farnsworth Art Museum’s site, where you can view a gallery of images from “First to Hail the Rising Sun: Maine Through the Eyes of its Artists,” a series of bicentennial-related exhibits at the Farnsworth that, thankfully, run through January of next year. You might also want to check out “Maine and American Art: The Farnsworth Art Museum,” a new book chronicling our state’s important role in the development of American art through more than 200 major works from the Farnsworth’s extensive collection. Published by Rizzoli Electa on March 10, it’s available online at amazon.com, rizzolibookstore.com, and, locally, at the Farnsworth Museum store and Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops (shermans.com).

As you explore these websites, consider ways that you can help during this difficult time — through a museum membership, donation to a nonprofit or gallery gift certificate (many are currently discounted) to be used toward a future art purchase. You can also help artists directly by donating to Creative Portland’s Artist Relief Fund. The term “struggling artist” may seem hackneyed, but our creatives are usually self-employed and work without a safety net, making them some of the hardest hit during economic downturns.

Jokingly known as masters of self-isolation, artists have been responding to the coronavirus crisis by hunkering down that much more deeply in their studios and getting work done, with many sharing the fruits of their locked-down labor online. It’s an important reminder that, despite the cancellation of live shows and exhibits, makers keep on making. Amazing art will come out of this. Someday, hopefully soon, we’ll have an opportunity to see it in person. Together.

Stacey Kors is a longtime arts writer and editor who lives on Peaks Island.

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