The Best Philadelphia Art Experiences You Can Enjoy From Home

As we ride out this moment of staying-in, it’s easy to get hypnotized by constant news streams and endless Instagram scrolls. Now is certainly not the time to feel guilty for too much screen time, but it might be cathartic to inject some art and culture into your routine. Luckily, there are a number of virtual art experiences to access if you’re looking to escape the static and connect with the Philly community. From online museum tours to virtual poetry readings, here are some things you can do to get a healthy distraction. 

Take virtual tours of Philly’s best museums 

If you’ve always wanted to make it out to Chestnut Hill for the Woodmere Art Museum, but never found the time, now’s your chance to get a preview. Visit the museum’s online and flick through various paintings, sculptures, and photographs by Philadelphia-area artists like Mary Cassatt. The new Violet Oakley Experience will take you through a virtual journey of the artist’s impact on the American Renaissance. If you’re in the mood for something more historical, the Museum of the American Revolution offers a 360-degree virtual museum tour that will bring you back to field trip days. Or take a virtual walk through the historic cell blocks of Philly’s famed Eastern State Penitentiary. 

Join a virtual drawing group or film discussion 

FRIEDA for generations, the cafe in Old City known for its social gatherings, is pivoting to a “(re)connecting online” movement via Zoom. Check its Facebook page for a schedule of virtual meetings, from drawing groups to conversations in different languages. Catch a film discussion of Searching for Sugar Man on April 10, or a watercolor workshop on April 11. 

Become an art history expert 

During the month of April, the Barnes Foundation will offer a slate of five online courses, with a different course running every day of the week. The selection includes “Manet, Women, and Paris,” an exploration of the French Impressionist’s depictions of fashionable women in modern Paris, and “On the Run: European Artists/ Intellectuals Flee WWII,” a study of exile and its impact on art. Be sure to register soon and get your flashcards ready. 

Attend a virtual poetry reading 

The Kelly Writer’s House is a cozy haven for literaries, located on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, but open to the public. They host a wide range of events, from media panels to book readings, and as a response to COVID-19, they’re revisiting previous programs everyday on their Facebook page. Watch a reading by poet Morgan Parker, or an interview with cultural critic, Jia Tolentino. You can also enroll in the free, online modern and contemporary American poetry course, “ModPo,” or listen to PoemTalk, a podcast featuring roundtable discussions of various poems, available on Spotify. 

Livestream a contemporary dance class 

Philadelphia-based contemporary dance company BalletX will be conducting dance classes on Instagram Live. You can try anything from beginner ballet to barre fitness. And if you need to entertain kids, join a “Toddler & Me” session. Check their Instagram page for daily schedules.

Hand sew your own leather goods

Tesoro Design’s DIY kits are a great way to support small businesses while also giving yourself a fun project to work on. Brit Reed’s leather brand is dedicated to empowering women and minimizing our carbon footprint. In addition to sewing her own face masks for donation, the founder has also created make-your-own leather kits that can be purchased on her website. Follow along Reed’s tutorials on Instagram, and hand sew your own koozie or sunglass case. 

Experience the Philadelphia Orchestra from your couch

It’ll never be quite like the real thing, but past performances by The Philadelphia Orchestra can be played through their Listen on Demand platform, and at-home practice sessions can be streamed on Instagram. Tune in for some powerful background noise, or catch the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra’s Learn program, which features panel discussions with notable musicians like Yumi Kendall.

Learn how to make clay works of art

The Clay Studio, a ceramics school slash art gallery in Old City, is offering weekly live-streamed, clay-making tutorials and Q&A sessions on its YouTube channel. And you don’t need a fancy pottery wheel to participate. Most tutorials feature materials that can be made at home, like an easy salt dough using a recipe of flour, salt, and water. 

Browse some new reads

If you’re looking to buy a new book online, try to support your local, independent booksellers. Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books has a digital shop, where you can find everything from the latest book releases to unique apparel. The shop even has a curated a list of books suitable for reading groups, which can be used to plan your next Facetime party.

Contribute to a digital memoir 

Storytelling arts organization First Person Arts is compiling a digital memoir of “COVID stories.” Every three days, they will issue a prompt on their website and social media platforms, after which storytellers will record five-minute responses. The group’s first release, “The New Normal,” chronicles how Philadelphians have been managing social isolation. Join the conversation, or simply watch, and feel less alone. 

Sign up here for our daily Philly email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Jessica Sulima is an editorial assistant at Thrillist, nostalgic for the days of wandering through Philly museums.