With world-class museums on two of its corners, the intersection of Seventh Street and Alamitos Avenue on the eastern edge of Downtown Long Beach is a crossroads of culture. Although the doors of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) and the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM) have been closed since March due to COVID-19 restrictions, their websites offer a variety of programs as well as glimpses of their rich collections of art and artifacts.
MOLAA is the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino Art. Across the street is PIEAM, the only museum in the continental United States with a collection devoted to art and culture from the three regions of the Pacific Islands: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia.
“We have been receiving more online visitors from around the world, gaining a broader audience as people look for unique and stimulating content during their long periods of being at home,” said Solimar Salas, MOLAA’s Vice President of Museum Programming and Content. “We have also had the pleasure of collaborating with K-12 programs and universities locally and from outside California.”
Visitors to MOLAA En Casa have access to online exhibitions. Currently showing are “OaxaCAlifornia,” a collection of large paintings by Dario Canul and Cosijoesa Cernas; “Arte, Mujer y Memoria: Arpilleras from Chile,” featuring colorful traditional textile works; and “En Vision: Picturing the Self,” a vibrant collection of photographs by women. Artworks from the museum’s permanent collection are on view as well.
Also available online are audio tours, exhibition brochures from past and current exhibitions, as well as additional educational resources about Latin American and Latinx art.
In addition, MOLAA is archiving all the programming it has offered since September 2020 on its YouTube channel, where visitors can view the panels and workshops presented during recent MOLAA events such as the Latino Comics Expo and 2020 Day of the Dead: A Long Journey.
Visit MOLAA’s website for information about the ongoing MOLAA Zoom Project, in which subjects such as educator/author/visual artist Amalia Mesa-Bains and multi-media installation artist Tania Candiani are interviewed about their lives and careers.
At PIEAM, Museum Director Fran Lujan is keeping busy on the digital front while missing the in-person fellowship PIEAM provides for art aficionados and for California’s Pacific Islander community, which is second in size in the United States only to Hawaii’s. “PIEAM serves as a community house for cultural practitioners and artists and for the community at large,” said Lujan. “We have presented community exhibits, artist teach-ins, school tours, live paintings, and a variety of cultural workshops. You can imagine the sadness of not gathering, of not feeling the embrace of family.”
Online, PIEAM is offering Pasifika Transmissions, a monthly distance learning series that invites local indigenous artists to develop an educational “transmission” geared to a K-12 audience. “This is our way of enhancing cultural competency as well as showcasing the vibrant talents of our local artists,” explained Lujan.
Also available for viewing on the PIEAM website is a fashion presentation, created by members of the Guma’ Gela’ arts collective, which debuted at London Pacific Fashion Week in October. In the “exhibits” section of the website, make sure to visit Museum at Home. According to Lujan, “The Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum acknowledges the Tongva people as the traditional land caretakers of Tovaangar (Los Angeles basin, South Channel Islands) and pay respects to the honuukvetam (ancestors), ‘ahiihirom (elders), and ‘eyoohiinkem (relatives/relations) past, present, and emerging.”
It is breathtaking to stand before an enormous Pacific Island sculpture in the rear courtyard at PIEAM, or enter a room filled with wall-sized paintings at MOLAA. Until those in-person opportunities present themselves again, art and culture lovers can stay in touch with these museums online, where they are open 24 hours a day and your patronage is just as welcome virtually as it is in person.