Connected \\ June 2, 2020
Lights, camera, living room!
In my first position with PEM as a Guest Experience Representative, I spent many a Wednesday morning at the Information Desk waiting for the PEM Pals parade of tiny visitors, ages 5 and under, to pass by brimming with excitement as they headed toward the Atrium. Up until our closure on March 14, visitors to the museum on Wednesday mornings experienced an energy that was quite different from any other day of the week.
When we realized PEM was closing due to Covid-19, Caryn and I immediately began brainstorming how we could continue to bring our PEM Pals community together virtually. In collaboration with PEM’s Manager of Media Production Chip Van Dyke and Director of Communications Whitney Van Dyke (and parents of PEM Pals fan Kip), a weekly video series of PEM Pals was born.
We initially hoped to film the program within the museum, but quickly realized it would have to be filmed by me at home to ensure safe social-distancing practices. Over the weeks, the simple, rough clips of me singing silly songs in my living room have evolved into a cross-departmental collaboration including animation and original music.
Our dynamic production team is led by Chip, responsible for video editing and pulling all the episode elements together, and Caryn, who project manages the team and is the brains behind our social media efforts. Melissa Woods has also been a valued contributor as Content Manager for the museum, assisting with our social media strategy.
We were incredibly fortunate to gain the talents of two Guest Experience Representatives, who have shifted from their usual duties of manning the front lines of the museum to be a part of the PEM Pals team. Amber Orozco, a recent graduate of Montserrat College of Art with a BFA in Animation and Interactive Media, has created precious animations to accompany me on screen (and now available as gif stickers on Instagram). Beth McKie diligently combs through each episode as our Captions and Copy Editor, increasing accessibility for our viewers.
The team is rounded out by my incredibly patient and gifted husband, Jordan Gravel, a professional musician and elementary music teacher, who composed the original theme music for the program and accompanies me each episode on his Hammond organ. He also graciously tip-toes around the house while I arduously film segments over and over again. Jordan is no stranger to PEM Pals, having performed with me many times under our PEM-created pseudonym, The Gravel Patch Kids.
Jordan and Beth performing at PEM. Photo by Mel Taing/PEM.
As the weeks go by and the museum assesses how and when we will reopen to the public, it remains clear that virtual programming will continue to be a safe and welcome option for our community. And now, any child, anywhere, can join us with PEM Pals. In my current role as a Creative Engagement Producer for the museum, along with the fantastic programs team, I am constantly looking for new ways to engage the public and bring them a sense of normalcy in uncertain times. Recently, we’ve started planning for and filming a variety of guest appearances and collaborations that we hope will encourage our smallest pals to explore the wonderful world around them while they aren’t able to explore our museum.