Art is known to imitate life, and 2020 is no exception.
In the first weeks of March, the North Carolina Museum of Art closed its doors in the wake of COVID-19. Almost six months later, NCMA is welcoming visitors back on Sept. 9 in person, with new social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines.
Due to the efforts of staff, such as Director of Visitor Experience Janis Treiber, there has been no lull in the public’s ability to interact with art since March. Over the past six months, there has been consistent facilitation of online museum experiences and art for people of all ages.
Treiber and her team have gone by NCMA’s COVID-19 protocol since March. Last Tuesday, when Gov. Roy Cooper opened up museums and other gatherings, the museum was optimistic.
“The museum was ready to welcome the people back as quickly as possible,” Treiber said.
Treiber and NCMA said they want North Carolinians to continue to enjoy art while feeling safe during these uncertain times.
“We have an obligation to them,” Trieber said. “It is their art to come see, so we feel a compulsion to make sure that happens quicker than another place might.”
Free timed tickets are now required of all visitors, Director of the NCMA Valerie Hillings said in a welcome back video. There are specified entry and exit doors on both buildings, locker use is suspended and all galleries have one-way traffic outlined by stanchions and arrows.
NCMA is also leaving no room for negligence. Every door that visitors pass will be accompanied by a guard in mask and gloves who will show them where they are and aren’t allowed.
Staff members are stationed around exhibits to answer any questions. Members are also holding themselves accountable by frequently cleaning all spaces, using hand sanitizer stationed in all buildings, and enforcing social distancing in all lines, including bathrooms.
The three exhibits highlighting Black women, community and chaos were planned before COVID-19. Linda Dougherty, chief curator and curator of contemporary art, said events from the past six months lend a different perspective than expected when the exhibits were planned.
The permanent collection NCMA has curated over the past 73 years is nothing short of breathtaking but has a glaring imperfection, Dougherty said.
“The curators asked what is missing, what parts of history are missing, people’s voices who have not been heard,” Dougherty said.
“Good as Gold: Fashioning Senegalese Women” illuminates the beauty of Senegalese women’s jewelry and clothing, “Contemporary Frescoes/Faith and Community” desires to uplift all people no matter their position in life, and “Making Chaos Legible” embraces the disorder of life and nature.
The museum’s touch on the country’s pulse now lends a different perspective to be explored. NCMA wants COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and 2020 as a whole to make an impression on its permanent collection, but not saturate this year's curations.
Dougherty said she believes the permanent collection needs to mirror what has gone in the world but also show the outlook of different artists' perspectives through their work.
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