Museums and galleries in Seoul, South Korea have begun reopening, while in Belgium, the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (MHKA) in Antwerp, and others in Italy, will reopen in mid-May. In Brandenburg, Germany, the city’s museum association’s guidelines for reopening (as of April 22) includes installing plexiglass shields at the ticket counter, disinfectant for staff, credit card instead of cash payments, and one person per 15 square meters, among other recommendations.
An executive order from Texas Governor Greg Abbott permitting shuttered businesses to reopen starting May 1, with a phased-in strategy, has Texas art institutions weighing similar recommendations for reopening.
However, with the number of deaths in the state due to COVID-19 looking more like a jagged mountain range than a steady downward slope (an ominous 666 as of this writing), and with testing and contact tracing for the virus still at or below the recommended minimum required to scale back social distancing, how soon can we expect Texas museums and galleries to open their doors to the public, and what will that look like?
The ordinance reads in part:
As outlined in Governor Abbott’s executive order GA-18, museums and libraries may operate up to 25% of the total listed occupancy, and must close any components of the museum or library that have interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas. Local public museums and libraries may operate only if permitted by the local government.
Among the recommended health protocols:
- Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
- Screen employees before coming into the museum or library:
- Send home any employee who has any of the following new or worsening signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19:
– Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
– Repeated shaking with chills
– Muscle pain
– Sore throat
– Loss of taste or smell
– Feeling feverish or a measured temperature
-Greater than or equal to 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit
-Known close contact with a person who is lab technician confirmed to have COVID-19
As we wait for the first re-openings of art spaces in Texas and their plans for allowing public interactions, we have heard from the following museums and galleries (May 1 does not seem to be a target date for them):
From The Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth: “The Modern will not reopen on Friday, May 1. We will continue to keep you updated as we prepare to welcome you back at a later date.”
From The Menil Collection: “Yesterday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott announced that the Texas stay-at-home order will expire Friday, May 1. This news applies to restaurants, retail stores, malls, movie theaters, libraries, and non-interactive museums across the state. The Menil Collection remains closed. Please know that the museum is carefully planning for its reopening later this summer. The safety of the Menil’s staff and visitors continues to be our top priority. You are a valued member of our community; we will let you know as soon as a date has been determined. Thank you for your continued support of the Menil. We look forward to welcoming you back to the museum. In the meantime, please visit our website for further updates.”
From the Kimbell Art Museum: “In accordance with health and safety guidelines from state and local officials, the Kimbell Art Museum is carefully considering when and how we may begin to reopen while ensuring the safety and comfort of our visitors, staff and volunteers. At this time, we have not yet set a date for reopening to the public. We will announce any new information and visitor procedures on the Kimbell website and social media channels as they become available. We look forward to welcoming our visitors back once we are ready and able to do so safely.”
From the Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas: “The arts are the lifeblood of a society, and we are thankful that the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas has deemed museums an essential part of its plan to restart and revitalize life in our state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Meadows Museum is making careful preparations to re-open, subject to all guidelines set by SMU and our local governments, in a manner that will protect the health and safety of its staff, visitors, and volunteers. We will update our website and social media channels with a reopening date as soon as one is determined; in the meantime, I encourage you to visit SMU’s website for the latest information about the campus response to the pandemic.”
From the Nasher Museum of Art, Dallas: “Art museums will play a vital role in the recovery of our communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. For that reason, we are pleased that the Governor of Texas has listed museums among those entities permitted to participate in Phase 1 reopening. However, with the health and safety of our visitors and staff our highest priority, the Nasher Sculpture Center will hold off reopening in accordance with County and City guidelines and in observance of local conditions.”
From The Printing Museum, Houston: “We hope you have been staying safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. We are aware of the inclusion of museums in the state’s phase one plan to re-open. With the health and safety of our visitors and staff as our top priority, The Printing Museum will not re-open on May 1. We will confirm a re-opening timeline as soon as we determine that we can do so with the proper safety measures in place. “
We are awaiting responses from other Texas museums we’ve reached out to. This story will be updated with their responses.