Hudson Valley and Northeast Museums Begin to Reopen | Museums | Hudson Valley
On March 20, as coronavirus cases increased statewide, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order closing non-essential businesses in New York City. After nearly two months of lockdown, New York began to reopen on a regional basis from May 15. As of this writing in late July, nearly every business in our area has been allowed to reopen – cinemas, concert halls, and gymnasiums being notable exceptions. . The museums, categorized as “low-risk arts”, were allowed to open with other Phase 4 businesses in July. (Massachusetts has followed a similar trajectory of sudden shutdowns and gradual reopening.)
With this issue, we kick off a multi-part series on how businesses are recovering from being shut down during the height of the first wave of the pandemic. With outbreaks intensifying across the country, however, the situation remains fluid, and it remains to be seen whether New York will continue to fully open this summer. This month, we spoke with museum administrators from across the region about how they are dealing with new regulations and restrictions while trying to provide visitors with a complete museum experience.
– Brian Mahoney
The future is in the dark, says Jodi Joseph, communications director at Mass MoCA. “But we are determined that there are smiles under these masks, and we hope that the art, architecture and natural beauty of this great place will continue to inspire our visitors.”
After months of uncertainty, museums in the Northeast have finally obtained clarification on their reopening dates and plans. On July 6, Massachusetts entered Phase 3, allowing the museums to reopen, and the next day, July 7, the Mid-Hudson region entered Phase 4. The initial response from people returning to museums was been very positive. Being back at the Mass MoCA “seemed like the first step in getting back to normal,” a visitor told Jodi Joseph on the first day the museum reopened to visitors.
Just three days after opening on July 11, the Mass MoCA in North Adams had welcomed 1,500 visitors. These visitors now have access to new and old art exhibitions that have been dormant for four months, such as “Kissing Through a Curtain,” which features works by Kim Faler and Justin Favela, among others. Although the exhibit opened in March, its explorations of uncertain intimacy are more relevant than ever in an age of social distancing.
“The questions that the exhibition explores about translation, meaning, language and communication are even more pressing,” says Joseph. “Now, as we face a global crisis and concerns about race relations escalate in this country and are seen around the world.”
Powerful museums like Mass MoCA, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, eagerly awaited this directive from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and began welcoming the public on the second weekend in July. Similarly, in the Hudson Valley, the Cold Spring Magazzino Art Museum reopened to the public on July 10, and the Thomas Cole House, a National Historic Landmark, opened on July 3.
Dia: Beacon will reopen to the public on August 7. Admission will only be made upon prior reservation; timed tickets will be available from August 3 on its website. Like other regional museums, Dia will observe strict health and safety measures, including mandatory face coverings for staff and visitors, and improved cleaning protocols.
A unifying economy
Summer is usually the busiest time of year for museums. But with the lockdown hanging over this peak season, revenues are down in everything from event tickets to gift shop sales. The Thomas Cole House, which hosts an average of 10,000 guests a year between spring and fall, has lost $ 300,000 from its budget due to lost ticket sales, planned donor gifts and fundraising. funds due to the pandemic. Revenues generated from the sale of tickets for on-site performances and admission to the museum represent 70% of the annual budget of Mass MoCA, which receives approximately 300,000 visitors per year. Additionally, the initial shutdown of Mass MoCA in April resulted in the layoff of 120 out of 165 staff.
Museums are not only important cultural resources for their local communities, they are also a key tourism engine, attracting people from all over to stay in local hotels and eat in restaurants. With months of home orders, tourism-dependent economic regions struggled. Specifically, the Berkshire region is “disproportionately dependent on tourism and hospitality,” explains Joseph. The economy “is built on the most hopeful things, a social economy or an economy of unification”.
Now, with the museums reopening, they can once again generate income for the rest of the summer, contribute to their local economies and continue to inspire their visitors through art. “Art is important in people’s lives and I think the last few months have reinforced that importance for a lot of people who have taken to the fact that museums are always available,” said Vicki Saltzman, director of communications at Clark. “When museums weren’t available, they realized it left a hole in their lives.”
Museums have had to adapt to the reopening by implementing a multitude of social and health distancing measures to ensure the safety of guests, such as requiring masks and limiting attendance. Overall, after their first successful opening weekends, museums feel confident in their security protocols.
In Catskill, the interior of the Thomas Cole House remains closed to the public, but guests can explore the estate by booking an “outdoor exploration kit,” which includes souvenirs, walking routes to Catskill Creek, and a guide. A limited number of slots are sold per hour to allow for social distancing on the site and visitors can pick up their kits via contactless pickups.
Magazzino reduced capacity to 10%, capping attendance at 100 people per day, 30 at a time. So far, the museum has seen around 70 visitors a day on weekends. In a futuristic twist, Magazzino also provided guests with EGOpro Active tags to help them maintain social distancing. When visitors interact with someone who is not in their group at a distance of less than six feet, the device, worn by a lanyard around the neck, begins to buzz and turn on.
While acknowledging the “great responsibility” that comes with reopening and ensuring the safety of their visitors, Magazzino manager Vittorio Calabrese noted that many people travel to the Hudson Valley to hike. because they didn’t have much else to do. “It helps that we’ve become an outlet for this flow of visitors that actually comes to the Hudson Valley,” Calabrese says.
Some small repairs
Although they are closed, these museums have used this rare free time for projects ranging from maintenance to conservation companies. For example, The Clark added their outdoor exhibition titled “Ground / Work”, which features installations by six contemporary artists.
Mass MoCA used this time to install a new Wendy Red Star exhibit titled “The Children of the Big Beaked Bird” in their child-focused gallery. “We have worked hard, creating new arts, bringing new artistic experiences to the public that we look forward to welcoming again to see, again, in 250,000 square feet of art, which comprises over 40,000 square feet. all new, never – avant-garde art, ”says Joseph.
The Thomas Cole House used the pandemic to carry out restoration work on its walls painted by hand by Cole. The historic site also installed a wheelchair lift to make the main house accessible to people with variable mobility, which is expected to be completed by the fall.
The pandemic has also prompted museums to get creative and start using digital programming to their advantage. The Clark produced a series called “Clark Connects” which consisted of short videos with curators and other staff discussing certain works of art or exhibits. The museum’s educational team also designed a plethora of activities at home for kids, like coloring sheets, puzzles, and quizzes.
Magazzino went digital with all of its programming in March. The institution produced 10 weeks of digital content, including Instagram lives of artists they work with, for their website and social media accounts. “I think the digital switchover at that time really made us realize that there is an audience that goes beyond our immediate neighbors in the Hudson Valley or New York,” Calabrese explains. Magazzino also plans to organize in-car film screenings in its parking lot in August.
The museum of post-war Italian art also hosted a series of in-person lectures online that it had planned for the spring. The digital programs are now available on the Magazzino website and include short videos highlighting the works of art and exhibits the museum has to offer.
Thomas Cole House has modified many of its activities and lectures to feature on its website, as well as a 360-degree virtual tour and distance learning activities. Heather Paroubek, site visitor engagement manager, agrees with Calabrese that the digital revolution catalyzed by the pandemic is here to stay.
“Something great that came out of this was the need to reinvent some of the ways we can allow others to experience this special place and the history of Thomas Cole,” says Paroubek. “I remember every day the privilege of working with this incredible team of original thinkers. ”