Berkshires museums announce reopening plans

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Berkshires museums announce reopening plans
Pia Camil (Mexican, b. 1980), Velo Revelo, 2020. Nylon hosiery, photograph on board. Courtesy of the artist. © Pia Camil. Photo: Amy Coon.

by Lauren Messman

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Three major cultural institutions in the Berkshires will reopen this month, following the green light from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who said Thursday that the state would move into Phase 3 of its reopening plans.

In a joint statement, Mass MoCA, the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Clark Art Institute outlined the programming changes and social-distancing measures they will be taking to ensure visitors can return to the museums safely.

Mass MoCA, which has performing arts venues, will reopen July 11 and plans to resume some smaller performances starting July 18. The galleries at the Norman Rockwell Museum and Clark Art Institute will reopen July 12.

Each museum will require ticketing reservations for staggered entry, and face coverings indoors. The institutions are also planning to use visitor information gathered at ticketing for contact-tracing purposes.

Each museum has faced unique challenges when thinking about the changes that would need to be made before visitors could return. Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum, said traditional guided tours would shift to small conversations in specific areas around the galleries, and audio tours could be downloaded to cellphones before visitation. At Mass MoCA, which enjoys 250,000 square feet of cavernous gallery space, director Joseph Thompson said the museum had to rethink high-traffic bottleneck areas, the HVAC system, and how both the audience and performers would experience live events in “radically reconceived and reimagined venues.”

As for programming, exhibitions that involve complex installation or encourage visitor interaction, like Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s virtual-reality experiences at Mass MoCA, will be postponed or temporarily closed. However, the Clark Institute was lucky to have planned its first outdoor exhibition, “Ground/work,” for this summer, with site-specific installations from six artists. Rather than unveil the collection all at once, the museum is welcoming visitors to view the installation process throughout the summer — a creative solution in response to the delays the artists have had amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The idea that we can open an exhibition only piece by piece is against all our wishes,” Olivier Meslay, Hardymon director at the Clark, said. “But at the same time for us it’s still a miracle and it’s great.

“Some things that would have been considered a mistake or against the rules are now considered as gifts, which is very different,” he added.

The Norman Rockwell Museum and Mass MoCA, which had to cut staffing after the museums’ closures in March, will be able to rehire some of their furloughed or laid-off employees. Moffatt said the Norman Rockwell is offering to have all furloughed staff members return, and Thompson said Mass MoCA would be able to hire back about 32 employees, most of whom had been laid off.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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