As we anticipate the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 30, there’s one way to get a sneak peek at what’s in store beginning this month—and it doesn’t require a ticket to Los Angeles.
The museum will begin rolling out a slate of virtual programs on April 22, in the lead-up to the Oscars, bringing panel discussions with industry leaders, gallery tours, screenings and workshops to a computer near you.
“We want all of our virtual programming to reflect what’s happening in the galleries,” says Jacqueline Stewart, Chief Artistic and Programming Officer of the Academy Museum. “Kicking it off Oscar Week is a really wonderful way for people in Los Angeles, across the country, around the world, to get a preview into the exhibitions.”
The first program, Breaking the Oscars Ceiling, on April 22, is inspired by the museum’s Academy Awards History Gallery. “We felt that highlighting the experiences of women Oscar winners would be a great way to shine a light on areas of Academy Awards history that have not gotten all the attention that they deserve,” Jacqueline says. “We picked four women who are all incredible in their own right, and what unites them is that they made Oscars history in really distinctive ways.”
“This is the Academy Museum,” Jacqueline adds, “which means that Academy members play such an important role in how we operate and in our programming.” Breaking the Oscars Ceiling—which is hosted by Academy Museum trustee Diane von Furstenberg and moderated by Jacqueline—features Sophia Loren, the first artist to win an acting Oscar for a non-English speaking role; singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, the first indigenous artist to win an Academy Award; Marlee Matlin, the first deaf performer to win an Academy Award and the youngest Best Actress winner; and Whoopi Goldberg, the first African-American to be nominated in both the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, the first woman to host the Oscars solo and the first person of color to host.
“When we think about the accomplishments of women, we don’t necessarily think about the diversity of women—and that’s what we want to highlight in this program.” —Jacqueline Stewart
When it comes to museum programming, virtual as well as in-person, Jacqueline maintains that it should all be both accessible and inspirational, for every kind of film fan. This means ensuring that all exhibitions, though deeply researched, don’t come across as obscure. “We’re crafting our content to be as accessible to people as possible,” she says. There will also be multilingual guides throughout. “We’re hoping that this is a space where people can come together from all different backgrounds, and if they’re standing in front of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, they feel as though they can have a conversation about them, that they’re on equal ground.”
Aside from showcasing the magic of movies, the Academy Museum aims to teach fans just how dynamic and collaborative the moviemaking process is, from directing to visual effects to costume design. Which is why, as part of its inaugural virtual programs, the Museum will also host a number of screenings followed by conversations with the filmmakers. It’s an effort to bring film fans from across the country, and around the world, together around movies that changed us. For the 10th anniversary of Dee Rees’ film Pariah, the May 6 conversation among the cast and crew is a highly anticipated reunion. A lot of them haven’t seen each other in years, Jacqueline notes. “Our Senior Director of Film Programs Bernardo Rondeau recognized that we could use our Zoom culture right now to bring together these artists and fans of the film around the world. The [Pariah] cast and crew are all in different locations, but in some ways, doing this as a virtual program allows us to do it at a scale that we likely couldn’t pull off in person.”
And then there’s the educational component, which aims to connect the museum with local youth and families in powerful and meaningful ways. The idea, Jacqueline says, is to give families resources “for having conversations about the complex world that we live in.” That’s one of the drivers behind the Film as a Teaching Tool virtual workshops for educators and caregivers. Part I takes place on June 19. “How can parents talk about racist images in animation, for example, which comes up a lot across the history of animation? How can films be a kind of mechanism for helping kids to understand gender roles? Cinema is comprised of an incredible body of work and we want to help caregivers, families, educators, mobilize the many lessons films offer.”
“We talk across the Museum about the power of cinema, and it’s through our education programs that we’re going to be able to help people connect films to their own histories, hopes, and everyday lives.” —Jacqueline Stewart
In an effort to build relationships within the local community, this program, and some others, like June 5’s Hayao Miyazaki Family Day, will have limited registration to ensure a true interactive experience.
From film screenings to workshops to conversations with Oscar winners, there is something for everyone at the Academy Museum—and in this packed virtual programing slate. As we gear up for the 93rd Oscars this Sunday, it’s the perfect moment to reflect on the history of cinema.
“Starting the programming now, during the awards season, is a way for us to participate in that tradition of bringing international recognition to the work of film artists,” Jacqueline says, “and really to start to invite people to imagine how they can come into an in-person experience, an in-person relationship with the Academy’s work.”
Breaking the Oscars® Ceiling is made possible by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which promotes authentic representation in the entertainment industry and full inclusion of people with disabilities throughout all sectors of society.
Learn more about the Academy Museum’s pre-opening programs here.
Become an Academy Museum Insider here.