How do you safely open an art museum during a pandemic? For the Burchfield Penney who is opening their doors for the first time in five months, it includes Plexiglass, hand sanitizer stations and operating at only a quarter capacity.
The art center will reopen to members Friday through Sunday and to the general public Aug. 14-16 free of cost for a limited time. Burchfield Penney Art Center Executive Director Dennis Kois said they’ve had to consider some unusual safety measures that only pertain to a museum.
"How do you keep the hand sanitizer off the art? How do you make sure you're hanging paintings or sculptures far enough apart that people can still focus and social distance while they're looking at them. Some of those kinds of issues," Kois said. "So those have proved challenging, but I think we got a good plan for keeping everybody safe and give them a chance to see some arts and reconnect to the world outside the walls."
Kois said he believes people have a need to reconnect to art, especially during times of turmoil. When the museum closed their doors in March, they became more active online. So far, their video content has been viewed nearly 80--thousand times and has reached has reached more than 50,000 users in livestreams.
The facility reopening comes at a time when the Albright-Knox right across the street is closed and undergoing renovations. Kois said they took that in to consideration when reopening.
“Because we're the only major venue for art that's going to be reopening right now this summer. We took that extra seriously,” he said. “You know what's going to happen at the Albright-Knox is great for the community, great for us all. But we definitely want to make sure we have access to some great art until the Albright gets Northland reopened, which I believe is going to be done sometime later this fall.”
Kois said they are optimistic as they see other museums around the country reopening with success.
“People I think really do have that need to reconnect to art and to meaning in their lives," he said."
Like all nonprofits, it’s been challenging for the Burchfield while closed, but Kois said they're in better shape than most.
“We have not needed to do anything drastic to respond to the closure. So our staff are all coming back. We're excited to have them and we're in good shape. But you know, like all nonprofits, we need everyone's support. We need people to come out, vote with their feet, but with the pocketbooks,” Kois said.
The museum will not host group gatherings or in-person programming at this time, but will be available on its virtual platform still, Burchfield Connects.