Art during the pandemic: What the Mazza Museum has done to adapt to the changing times

By Taylor Christensen

Director of the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay Benjamin Sapp says he and his staff look forward to coming days.

Being mostly hands on, in person, and interactive, organizations like the Mazza have had to adapt significantly to the changing times due to Covid-19.

“We initially thought that this may impact us for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, maybe two months at the most,” Sapp said. “Then we learned that we needed to see what of it we could provide on a virtual format.”

The Mazza museum was created in 1983 and is dedicated to sharing original art of picture books through educational events, exhibits and artist visits. This new virtual format has provided the museum with many opportunities to keep art lovers engaged with their gallery, and other activities that are usually held in person.

“We’ve taken almost everything we do from tours, to Fun Day Sunday, from Tales for Tots, we provide our conferences both in the summer, and on the weekend,” said Sapp. “All of those have been now provided in a virtual format.”

Heather Sensel, Education Manager of the Mazza Museum, says there was definitely some fear about operations and how to adjust to COVID.

“We could never believe what we were walking into,” Sensel said. “We all took on different roles. Mine was to make sure to get everything ready for the new STEAM center.”

As Covid-19 began, so did a new addition to the Mazza, the Joseph and Judith Conda STEAM center. This added on to the already stressful pile for the staff at Mazza. “The focus on our team was how do we make it as normal for people as we can, and we still have to continue creating this new entity.”

Even though Covid-19 has been a struggle for many, the Mazza staff is staying positive and thinking of new ways to incorporate new programming that can reach individuals across the world.

One of the new activities is called Mass Artist Monthly, held on the last Monday of each month, where an author or illustrator gives a presentation over a Zoom webinar and holds a question and answer session with the audience as well.

The museum was able to hold a webinar with illustrator Chris Van Dusen and Author Kate DiCamillo, which brought in around 70 people on a Zoom webinar.

“We had public classrooms in California, Arizona, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, all over the country that would not have been a part of any of our programming had Covid-19 not been still with us,” Sapp said.

Covid-19 has had a few silver-linings for the Mazza, but the staff still misses the hustle and bustle of the time before Covid-19.

“Our real mission is having people here in person not only with our visitors but our volunteers,” Sapp said. “Before Covid-19 we had 291 events that year. There’s no way possible that you can transform every one of those into a virtual format.”

The fear of the pandemic still continues for the Mazza staff, but Sapp is hopeful that these virtual programs are going to keep students engaged and learning about the wonders of picture book art.


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