Though many people are starting to carefully re-engage in social interactions as we move into the next stages of post-quarantine life, local arts organizations and venues are working harder than ever to come up with every possible solution for gradually reopening in the next few months.
Places like the Dunedin Fine Arts Center are actively informing visitors of new safety measures they’ll be employing: checking temperatures with touchless thermometers at main entrances, requiring masks, sanitizing of classrooms between sessions, and installing 6-feet-spacing reminders.
The Arts Council of Hillsborough County also recommends setting up timed ticketing or reservations as well as keeping an eye on emerging solutions like installing advanced hair handlers that help filter viruses, adding UV lighting, and other ways to improve facilities.
The Scarfone/Hartley Gallery at the University of Tampa is being creative in keeping gallery patrons separated.
“4,000 square feet is a benefit in our gallery to accommodate a pretty good amount of people with 6 feet of social distancing, plus crowd density so everyone will have their 12 feet spacing,” says Jocelyn Boigenzahn, Director of the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery. “Using curation as part of social distancing, we have the room to spread works out and do tighter curation making selective choices. I think it will allow for the artwork to do what it used to: to stand on its own and have artworks resonate better with each other.”
Many local arts institutions with university affiliations, including the Scarfone/Hartley Gallery, USF’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, and the Polk Museum of Art, have yet to open and are waiting on each college’s plan of action for the Fall semester. Until plans for students to return have solidified, digital exhibition programs like Artsteps -- a free, high-tech program that allows you to make a 3D gallery space to digitally walkthrough -- have been helpful not just to show work, but as a teaching tool for museum studies students.
“Our next exhibition Acrylic Painters USA will be done through Artsteps, where the guided walk-through can be done with VR,” Boigenzahn says. “We’ve been out talking to other people in our community and working on ways we can still be impactful. Co-producing an online exhibition at the same time as a physical exhibition is not something I would have normally considered until now, but it also comes with a lot of hurdles. Most people aren’t considering the challenges behind online exhibitions, not just tech, but copyright. Galleries are usually very small staff, so we’ve put on even more hats than we already had on, so it’s been a learning curve for all of us.”
A schedule delay like this can easily disrupt a museum’s carefully allotted 3-year exhibition schedule, but the Contemporary Art Museum at USF immediately pivoted and changed their entire summer and fall schedule. Skyway 2020 -- the second iteration of Skyway: A Contemporary Collaboration, which was a juried exhibition of local artists between three museums between Tampa, St. Pete, and Sarasota -- was anticipated to open this summer, but will now be pushed to 2021 along with an exhibition of Puerto Rican art.
In its place is a reactive exhibition of the current situation in Life During Wartime: Art in the Age of Coronavirus, opening June 6.
“With this entirely virtual exhibition, we’re hitting this face on. Our curator-at-large, Christian Viveros-Fauné, has organized this exhibition with over 40 international artists done entirely on Squarespace with a Zoom opening reception. We will have a number of virtual events, and we have wild flexibility with that compared to in-person artist talks -- though there’s no substitute to having the artists physically here,” says Noel Smith, Deputy Director and Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art at USF CAM.
Fingers are crossed for a physical exhibition opening at the end of August, with “Neighbors: A Slideshow of America,” comprised of 4-5 photographers who will be exhibiting their work in a slideshow format, giving them a chance to tell a more vivid story.
“Each [artist] has interesting things to say about America and communities, which is important to have in the context of an election year. This exhibition can also be adapted to virtual should we not be allowed to open up the museum,” Smith says. “We are looking at what other museums across the country are doing to reopen, then deciding what we will do. I know it will involve lots of cleaning and restricted access, but we are going to do the most we can to open things up.”
ZOOMing right along
Though it’s the only option for many, are Zoom opening receptions bringing in the same number of people as in-person receptions?
“Art in the Time of COVID: 2020 Charrette was our first virtual reception, and we will host our next virtual receptions Sept. 25-26 for our Fall exhibitions. We had over 120 attendees, including those from New York, California, and overseas. That’s about what we pull for a typical opening, so I’d say that was pretty good for our first virtual reception,” says Christine Renc-Carter, Curator of the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. “The online engagement has been great and necessary for survival in this day and age.”
Besides exhibitions and other events, many museums traditionally incorporate kids’ summer programs into their schedules. To create a similar art experience for kids (and even adults) who may not be leaving the house much this summer, the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has come up with their “Art (Un)Boxed” Summer Program.
In either a la carte or subscription purchases that can be mailed or picked up to-go, they will be releasing 11 unique art-making kits inspired by their permanent collection, allowing kids to experiment with mediums like printmaking, mixed media, painting, sculpture, and drawing. Video demos from the campers’ favorite art instructors will also be included with the kit’s purchase to continue the same element of mentorship an in-person program would offer.
“This isn’t necessarily something brand new, but something new for us,” says Ellen Chastain, Education Manager of the Polk Museum of Art. “Because we work with other art educators in the county, we’ve been in contact with the Tampa Museum of Art and other arts organizations. Each of us has come up with something completely different to do, whatever fits our demographic, to make it work.”
As far as reopening goes for arts and cultural galleries and institutions, it’s all about sharing ideas. Americans for the Arts is currently collecting and sharing reopening plans in their Resource Center. Your ideas can be sent to [email protected]
to add to the list.
For more information, visit the website of your favorite art venue, including these links: