The Best DC Area Art Experiences You Can Enjoy From Home

Get some culture from your couch.

Nothing beats the winter doldrums like a trip to the museum or inspiring play, but this year many museums, concert halls and theaters have closed amid a rise in surging coronavirus cases. But the venues have found innovative ways to keep the arts alive and bring them into our homes by streaming content, offering virtual 360 tours, hosting classes and virtual events with artists. A handful of spots like Artechouse DC and George Washington’s Mount Vernon remain open to the public with social distancing measures in place. But plenty of options remain for art lovers who want the same experiences at home.

Explore coral reefs with the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History 

Smithsonian’s webinars and virtual school programs will make teaching  science to kids a breeze. The museum offers digital programs for schools that introduce kids to basic science concepts, museum staff and the natural world. Upcoming lessons explore coral reefs and animal adaptations.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African American History and Culture | EQRoy/Shutterstock

Learn about Black fashion with the National Museum of African American History & Culture

Download the Google Arts & Culture app on your phone to get a glimpse of the museum exhibit “A Look at the Black Fashion Museum Collection and Designer Peter Davy.” Containing nearly 1,000 items, some of the highlights of the online collection include a dress sewn by Rosa Parks and a military uniform work by Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first African American to serve as chief of the Army Nurse Corps. The museum’s website also contains several virtual exhibits and online collections full of historical artifacts.

International Spy Museum
International Spy Museum

Check out hidden cameras with the International Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum is open, with social distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning protocols in place. But the museum continues to offer virtual programs, including a chat with their executive director and former intelligence officer,  for folks who don’t feel safe venturing out. Fans can also browse their online spy tool collection, which includes cameras hidden in everything from a watch to a fountain pen.

Time travel to the 18th century with George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Take a virtual 360-tour of the 11,028-square-foot estate and surrounding property, which lets you zoom in on the descriptions of the rooms, furniture, and art. Get the latest updates on its Facebook and YouTube pages. The sprawling Northern Virginia estate has reopened its physical space with social distancing markers and hand sanitizing stations throughout.  

The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum

Take art lessons with The Walters Art Museum 

The Mount Vernon museum has been cataloguing its massive collection, spanning from the antiquities to modern day, for the last decade. Its latest virtual effort presents art lessons and art at home projects for school students ages six to 11 and art tutorials on its YouTube site that teaches viewers how to make art similar to the pieces you find in the museum. Download its 1 West app on the Apple App Store or Google Play to take a virtual tour of its 19th-century mansion, the Hackerman House.

Explore African art with the Baltimore Museum of Art

The BMA remains closed until January 6, but until then art lovers can hop on its website or download its mobile app to view its treasures. Head to the BMA’s Facebook page to get live tours of its exhibits. The museum’s newsletter, BMA Stories, features conversations with artists and articles on the museum’s collections. Subscribe to the YouTube channel to explore the galleries virtually and watch interviews with artists.  

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Tour a luxe estate with Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens 

The former estate of philanthropist and businesswoman Marjorie Merriweather Post, Hillwood is welcoming visitors who make advanced reservations on its website. Guests who want to stay home can view the elaborate furniture, art, and collections virtually via a Zoom tour.

Stream a Christmas classic with Baltimore Center Stage

Midtown Baltimore theater company Center Stage is streaming performances of two classic holiday tales, A Christmas Carol and Hip Hop Nutcracker, which you can watch from home. Virtual live discussions with scholars and activists take place in the Butterfly Sessions in 2021.  

Watch virtual concerts with the Kennedy Center

The legendary multipurpose arts space features videos from every genre on its digital stage. Watch clips and full-length performances of previous jazz and hip-hop concerts, ballet and contemporary dance, and theater. The site also includes several holiday specials, including last year’s Christmas jazz jam, and premium content featuring virtual concerts with the likes of Grammy-winning hip=hop and jazz artist Robert Glasper. 

The Washington Ballet
The Washington Ballet

Learn to be a ballerina with The Washington Ballet 

The ballet troupe has partnered with Marquee TV to stream new performances. Enjoy Nutcracker production “Clara’s Christmas Dream” and “Chronos,” which were rehearsed while dancers wore masks and maintained their distance from one another. Dancers who want to fine tune their skills can stream one of the classes taught by faculty members of the Washington School of Ballet. Students receive real-time feedback during the 90-minute lessons, held via Zoom. The ballet offers both beginners and advanced classes.

Stream Sundance films with Parkway Theatre

The 105-year-old movie theater was forced to shut its doors last spring, three years after it reopened following an $18.2 million restoration. But film buffs can still support the cultural nonprofit by streaming its selection of a dozen independent, foreign, classic and non-fiction films from home. And stay tuned later this month for details to come later this month on the Parkway’s partnership with organizers of the Sundance Film Festival, which will allow it to screen film festival movies.

Up your Netflix game with the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center 

With nearly three dozen films available in its digital library, AFI offers plenty of choices for film buffs. The selections include Monsoon' starring Henry Golding, a documentary on Frank Zappa, and a restored version of Smooth Talk, a 1986 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner starring Laura Dern.

Politics and Prose Bookstore
Politics and Prose Bookstore

Take a virtual writing or poetry class with Politics and Prose

The independent bookstore has always been a haven for literary lovers and continues its mission by offering virtual book groups, fiction classes taught by esteemed authors and live events with authors. Upcoming classes discuss Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah and Tolkien’s Three Great Tales

Drink and draw at home with Muse Paintbar

Sip and paint studios have proliferated in recent years and some, like Muse Paint Bar, are allowing artists to unleash their creativity. Muse, which has a location in Fairfax, is offering paint at home kits that you can order online. Paint princesses for a kid’s birthday party, floating balloons for a girl’s night in or Venetian homes. Artists can purchase a video with instructions, a supply kit with paint brushes and canvases, or both.

Watch a hip-hop Nutcracker with Strathmore

Strathmore’s Facebook page brings the Bethesda music and arts hall into your home. Attend a writing workshop or view a pay-what-you-can performance of the Hip Hop Nutcracker. The website lists additional performances that can be streamed on livestream site Stellar, where you can stream “A Salute to Vienna and Budapest.” 

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Julekha Dash is a Maryland writer who covers food, travel, and design with bylines in USA Today, American Way, Architectural Digest, Eater, Fodor's, and others. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and check out her Contently portfolio.