The Zimmerli Art Museum on the College Avenue campus has reopened for in-person activities after being closed throughout the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The museum’s acting director, curator of American art and director of Mellon’s academic programs, Donna Gustafson, spoke about the museum’s reopening and future events.
“We are part of the campus community and always imagined that we would reopen with the University,” she said. “Since the first day of the fall semester was September 1, that was also our reopening date.”
Before the pandemic, Zimmerli was open Tuesday through Sunday and featured various events such as Art After Hours, in which it stayed open until 9 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month, Gustafson said. When the museum closed to the public, it featured several virtual events and online exhibits.
With the recent reopening, she said the museum’s main goal is to increase its reach in the community, and they’ve already started doing that by readjusting their hours as well as redesigning their signage and website.
Zimmerli’s new hours are Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Gustafson said. The museum will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
“Changing our schedules was an easy way to become more accessible to people who worked 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday and were busy on weekends,” she said. “We also thought that being open later on Wednesdays and Fridays… and being open every Thursday until 8 p.m. would be more convenient for students, faculty and staff.”
Gustafson said the museum features eight new exhibits and a large collection of Russian, European and American art along with other regular exhibits. The first SparkNight, an event designed to engage the gaze on art, will be held on October 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
She said the reopening has gone well so far, although she understands people are still reluctant to come back to campus and participate in group activities. One of the challenges in increasing foot traffic at the museum has been making it known that the museum is free and open to everyone, with places for students to rest and study between classes.
“There are always surprises and I expect that we will continue to face challenges,” said Gustafson. “So far… the staff have done a great job of moving the museum forward and creating great programs for our visitors.”
Many museum employees continued to maintain it and work throughout the pandemic. She said it was important for staff to go and check the art every day to make sure nothing was stolen or that the quality was still intact.
“There was a lot to do to set up eight new exhibits and we also needed to create social distancing systems in offices and establish protocols for returning staff first and then returning visitors,” said Gustafson. .
Upcoming events include guest speaker photo historian Ericka Wolf on October 1 at noon, a family art event on October 10, and one of 3 archive events on October 21, which will celebrate activist and author Angela Davis, she said. They will also record and post their events online on their YouTube channel.
Gustafson said visitors can expect a full roster of events this year, with intriguing collaborations and interactive exhibits.
“I would like to say that visitors can expect the unexpected,” she said. “We are invested in experimentation and accessibility. We are looking for new ways to engage and collaborate with faculty and students. “