Arts and Entertainment

Palmer Museum of Art delays reopening, announces programs and projects for fall

The Palmer Museum of Art will continue to offer virtual programming and online content until it reopens in early January 2021. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the fall semester begins and students return to campus, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State has decided to delay its reopening to the public and will open its doors in early January 2021. The museum will continue its robust virtual programming and online content while using the extended closure to address critical needs of the facility and collection.

“Though a difficult decision, opening in January is the most prudent course of action, especially in light of ongoing concerns surrounding the pandemic and bringing visitors to campus,” said Museum Director Erin M. Coe. “Extending our closure will provide us with the much-needed opportunity to make advances on other initiatives, including critical facility and collection projects. We look forward to reopening our doors to the public in early January.”

The Palmer’s plans for the fall closure include a major collection rehousing project, performing renovation work in the building on Curtin Road, and undertaking the digitization of the collection.

First up will be rehousing a portion of works from the Palmer’s collection from the facility on Curtin Road to a nearby collection storage complex. In 2018, to accommodate the tremendous growth in the permanent collection, Penn State offered approximately 3,000 square feet of space in the Library’s Depository Building in State College to be completely renovated into a state-of-the-art storage facility for the Palmer Museum. New high-density storage equipment has already been installed, and the space will be ready to receive artwork after Labor Day. Migrating parts of the collection is a substantial undertaking that entails moving art out of the existing and overcrowded art storage spaces to the renovated facility. Preparing and carefully moving the artwork through the building will span the course of several months, and the extended closure will facilitate the completion of this major rehousing project.

The museum’s closure this fall also will allow for renovation and repair work after a recent sprinkler pipe leak, which will commence after Labor Day. No art was damaged by the incident, and while the renovation is in progress, other upgrades to the facility will be made, including repainting the lobby for the first time since the Charles Moore addition opened in 1993.

Finally, during this fall season, Palmer staff will focus on a major digitization project of the museum’s permanent collection. The extended closure will allow for new photography of many works in the collection, a prerequisite for launching a new online searchable collection database in the near future that will greatly extend the digital reach of the museum.

While projects are ongoing, the Palmer will also continue its full slate of engaging virtual programs and events. Plans for the fall include exciting new educational content and online offerings for Penn State faculty and students and K-12 teachers and students, as well as families, kids and adults from the greater community.

Notable autumn programs include a mix of popular Palmer events, including Art After Hours events, gallery talks and lectures — formatted and evolved for the virtual sphere — plus intriguing new experiences for audiences of all ages.

In the “Museum Conversations” series, virtual visitors can join Palmer staff, Penn State students, and special guests live online for insights and lively conversations about the inner workings of an art museum.

Virtual tours will include self-directed, interactive, online explorations highlighting objects from the collection around special themes. Introductory tours led by Palmer staff or volunteer educators via Zoom will offer a synchronous experience for remote classes or groups and provide opportunities for guided discussions.

A novel “Palmer in Your Pocket” program will share short videos created by Palmer student interns that present collection highlights, art trivia, food for thought, museum tips and tricks, or similar "light fare" designed to provide fun or restorative art breaks for online audiences.

Children and families can also stay active with the museum through a new “Online Art Club” of videos and periodic live meetings full of fun art-making prompts, artistic explorations, and good old-fashioned creativity.

Updates on all programs will be shared via the museum website at as well as on the Palmer’s social media channels. Follow the Palmer Museum of Art on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for all programming announcements and links to all the digital content.

See below for a comprehensive list of the upcoming programs this season.

Stills from the Palmer Museum of Art's popular Museum Sketchbook Series videos. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Fall programs

Art After Hours

The Palmer's popular evening program for Penn State students moves to a remote format during the fall, with two "live online" events. Each of these programs will offer a variety of experiences, such as virtual talks, student-led discussion panels, art-related games, and creative making activities. Check the Palmer's website as more information and scheduling becomes available for each program.

Art, Museums, and Social Justice: Sept. 24, 6-8 p.m. — Link to join:

Halloween at Home: Museum House of Horrors: Oct. 29, 6-8 p.m. — Link to join:

INSIGHT: Museum Conversations

Join Palmer Museum staff, Penn State students, and special guests "live online" for this series of lively conversations about the inner workings of an art museum. These webinars will feature questions and interviews of staff posed by museum interns and graduate assistants. Participants will also be able to join the conversation and gain more insight into museum practices. Program recordings will be posted for later viewing on the Palmer's YouTube channel.

Museums and the Myth of Neutrality: Thursday, Sept. 24, 6 p.m. — Join museum educator Brandi Breslin and Keri Mongelluzzo, a doctoral candidate in art history, for an introduction on how museums support systems of power and oppression within the broader culture. Learn about steps the Palmer is taking to reflect on this history and take action toward anti-oppressive practices. Link to join:

Discover the Palmer Museum of Art: Sunday, Oct. 4, 3 p.m. — Join museum staff, graduate assistants, and interns for an introduction to the Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State's premiere visual arts resource for students, faculty, staff, and the local community. Discover the rich and varied ways that students work and learn at the museum, and enjoy a glimpse of the galleries, an introduction to the various collection areas, and an in-depth look at a few selected works of art. Link to join:

A Day in the Life of a Museum Director: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 4 p.m. — Palmer Museum Director Erin Coe joins student interns for a discussion about what it's like to lead a university art museum. From strategic planning and capital projects to collections development and exhibition planning, and so much more, gain insight into the breadth and depth of a museum director's role, responsibilities and expertise. Link to join:

Tales from the Museum Crypt (aka Strange Discoveries in Art Storage): Thursday, Oct. 29, 6 p.m. — Celebrate Halloween at home and enjoy a peek into the dark recesses of art storage at the Palmer with museum registrar Beverly Sutley and longtime graduate assistant Keri Mongelluzzo. Find out what odd, creepy or surprising objects can be found in the museum's collection and storage facilities. Link to join:

So, You Want to Buy a Print?: Thursday, Nov. 12, 4 p.m. — Enjoy this introduction to assessing and evaluating prints presented by Patrick McGrady, the Palmer's Charles V. Hallman Senior Curator. Discover details about different printmaking techniques that experts look for when considering prints for the museum's collection. Link to join:

How Exhibitions Are Made: Thursday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m. — Ever wonder about the process of curating an exhibition? Join the Palmer's assistant director, Joyce Robinson, and museum educator Brandi Breslin as they discuss key elements of exhibition planning such as defining goals, developing checklists, creating programs, and managing installations. Link to join:

Museum Sketchbook Series

Each of these nine videos, created and hosted by Penn State student interns, highlights an artist in the museum's collection. A brief introduction to the artwork leads to a creative prompt that encourages participants to explore artmaking through simple, low-stakes, sketchbook activities. Videos were created for summer 2020 programming and will remain available via YouTube throughout the current academic year to support teachers, families, and anyone looking for creative inspiration. Generous support for this project is provided by Art Bridges.

Video links:

Museum Zoom Tours

For Penn State instructors interested in providing a synchronous experience for remote classes, Palmer Museum staff or volunteer educators are available to present an introduction to the museum via an illustrated lecture. This in-depth presentation will highlight a selection of works of art from the museum’s permanent collection with guided discussion. To schedule a Zoom tour for October to December 2020, contact the museum educator, Brandi Breslin, at

Online Art Club

Children and families can stay active with the Palmer through art-making videos and periodic "live online" art club meetings. Distribution of art supplies will support all planned activities for four to six videos and two Zoom-based meetups. Activities will begin in September, so check the Palmer website for updates regarding art supply registration, online club meetings, and video release dates. Until then, enjoy activities and videos already available on the Palmer's YouTube channel. Generous support for this project is provided by Art Bridges.

Palmer in Your Pocket

Beginning in late September, get ready to like, friend, and follow the Palmer's social media accounts to find short videos created by Palmer student interns that feature collection highlights, art trivia, food for thought, museum tips and tricks, and similar "light fare" designed to provide a fun or restorative art break.

Virtual Tour – African Brilliance and the Purpose of Art

This interactive virtual tour accompanied the Palmer's spring 2020 special exhibition, “African Brilliance: A Diplomat's Sixty Years of Collecting,” and will remain available throughout the current academic year. Explore the exhibition installation, images of selected works, videos for guided viewing, and related art-making activity suggestions. Use your mouse or touch screen to click the navigational buttons included throughout the presentation to move through the tour. (Note: using the Chrome browser may optimize your experience). Tour link: African Brilliance and the Purpose of Art.

Virtual Tour – Women in Art: Activism + Resistance

This self-directed, interactive, online tour features a selection of objects by female artists in the museum's collection. In celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, this tour highlights artists working in a variety of mediums during the 20th and 21st centuries who have contributed to political, social, and cultural change. Generous support for this project is provided by Art Bridges. Link: Virtual Tour – Women in Art: Activism + Resistance.

Virtual Tour – Who Am I? Art and Identity

This self-directed, interactive, online tour features a selection of objects from diverse areas of the museum's collection, related through a common exploration of personal or cultural identity. Suggested lessons and discussion prompts will help support teachers in integrating the tour into class curriculum. Generous support for this project is provided by Art Bridges. This tour is expected to be published by the end of September; check the Palmer's website for an access link.

About the Palmer Museum of Art

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,850 objects representing a variety of cultures and spanning centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present, Old Master paintings, prints and photography, ceramics and studio glass, and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays and is temporarily closed until early 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

About the new University Art Museum at Penn State

Penn State and the Palmer Museum of Art are planning to construct a new University Art Museum located in The Arboretum at Penn State. With nearly twice the exhibition space of the Palmer, new classroom spaces and a teaching gallery, flexible event spaces, and on-site parking, this building would dramatically enhance the museum’s capacity to offer educational and enrichment opportunities for visitors of all ages. It would be integrated with the Arboretum, inspiring collaboration and creating a unique nexus of art, architecture, and natural beauty. And like the Palmer Museum of Art before it, it will depend upon visionary philanthropy from the Penn State community. Learn more at

Last Updated August 24, 2020