For the Booth Western Art Museum, COVID-related restrictions came at an especially unfortunate time: within weeks after the Booth won the USA Today Reader’s Choice Award for Best Art Museum. Such a high-profile honor could be a great promotional tool in normal times; instead, staff had to focus on beefing up the museum’s digital presence. Sandy Scott, the Booth’s Director of Marketing, explained how they managed to do it with impressive speed and success.


Gene Downs: What is your background? How long have you been with the Booth?

Sandy Scott: I started my museum career at Georgia Museums, Inc., in 2008, at Tellus Science Museum. I was promoted to Director of Marketing at Booth Western Art Museum in 2018. The family of museums under the Georgia Museums umbrella includes Bartow History Center, Booth Western Art Museum, Tellus Science Museum and (opening soon) Savoy Automobile Museum.


Gene Downs:  How prepared was the Booth for a shutdown of in-person operations?

Sandy Scott: Before March, all of our programming was in-person, and we had very limited resources online. You could find out about us, you could navigate to information about our exhibits, events, and that was about all.

When COVID hit, we wanted to reach out to our members, the community, and families who were looking for educational things to do. We moved many of our programs and exhibitions online, came up with new programs, and redesigned the website so people could easily find all of these resources.

Facebook Live was our friend, too. We developed Art Lessons with Mrs. Lynette for all age groups, and we heard fun stories about people connecting over the art lessons. One sweet story was about a grandmother who lives in the Atlanta area and her grandchild in North Carolina would do the lessons together, so they were able to connect over an art project. That was a full-circle moment because that was exactly what we wanted our online programs to accomplish: people connecting with each other even if they were unable to be close physically.

We had high participation in a lot of these programs, especially before we reopened in June. When we came back to some in-person programming, real-time online participation decreased but we continued to have views of recorded programs.


Gene Downs:  How else has COVID affected the museum’s educational programs?

Sandy Scott:  Once we discontinued docent-led indoor tours, we started offering tours of our outdoor bronze sculptures. That worked well and is really enjoyable. People like learning about the art and the artists who created those works.

Patty Dees, our Director of Education, has been phenomenal with developing virtual programs for school systems. She developed four educational programs by fall, and that has been very successful; we had 20 field trips scheduled this week. We have paid educational staff who do the programs live via Zoom or another teleconferencing tool, so we can interact with the students.


Gene Downs:  When did the museum reopen and with what safety precautions?

Sandy Scott: We opened to staff on June 8, and we opened to members with reserved tickets on June 13. We added signage, mainly directing visitors one way through the galleries. We have sanitizing stations throughout the museum, and we have timed ticketing to ensure that have only one-quarter of our allowed capacity in the museum at any one time. Security guards monitor the galleries to make sure people are distancing, masks are required for all staff, and masks and gloves are required for all front-line workers. Masks are strongly encouraged but not required for visitors unless you participate in a docent-led tour.


Gene Downs:  What are the takeaways from this experience for the Booth?

Sandy Scott: We are running two museums now: our physical museum and our virtual museum. This experience has made us better and we are reaching new audiences.

We receive comments from people who tune in for programs from all over the country. They are excited to visit our online temporary exhibitions and participate in virtual programming. I think going forward, we will operate with more of a digital focus than we did before COVID. Our normal process will be to have digital tours of our temporary exhibits and stream all lectures and gallery walks then make those available on our website.

Spring Exhibition Highlights at the Booth Western Art Museum

“Vaquero Legacies & Diverse Descendants,” Feb. 13-July 11, 2021 ― Bringing together the work of more than 10 photographers, the exhibition traces the legacies of America’s cowboys as early as the 1700s. People of Color and their stories will be presented to further the understanding that the West was and is a deeply diverse area of many cultures and peoples.

© Richard A. Ducree, Erica Adrienne Frank, Third Generation Rodeo Rider, 2018, Courtesy of the artist


“Carrie Penley: Reflections on Nature,” through March 14, 2021 ― A resident of Carrolton and 1995 graduate of the University of Georgia, Penley has strong roots in Georgia. She uses a variety of media and techniques ― collage materials, neutral colors, expressive brush strokes ― and contrast to create unique works.

When Buffalos Roamed ©CarriePenley


Beyond Rossin’s SouthWest, March 18-Aug. 15, 2021 ― A native of Bulgaria, Rossin grew up watching Western movies and developed a fascination for the world they depicted. These works were inspired by the people and lands he encountered during a road trip through the Southwest with the Booth’s Executive Director, Seth Hopkins, in 2019.

Canyon Warrior ©RossRossin

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Gene Downs is a freelance writer and editor based in Durham, N.C., focusing on consumer healthcare communications. He is a former arts and entertainment writer for the Savannah Morning News. Visit his portfolio at