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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A modest proposal

It's April 2020, and the top subject on just about everyone's mind is how to reopen the U.S. economy while maintaining a safe environment in relation to the novel coronavirus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has set May 15 as the date to begin this process in New York state, with many limits sure to remain in place, and careful decisions to be made on which businesses or services should restart.

My big question is: Where will art museums and galleries fit into this plan?

I think they should be among the first businesses to reopen, for the following reasons:

  1. We are all starving for culture and entertainment, and art exhibitions are a great way to feed that need
  2. It requires very little on-site staff to open an exhibition space
  3. As with other essential businesses, such as supermarkets or hardware stores, necessary protocols like sanitizing surfaces and the wearing of masks would be simple to implement in most exhibition spaces
  4. Apart from major events, such as opening receptions, most exhibition spaces do not attract large crowds - so it would be relatively easy to enforce and maintain social distancing inside and outside these spaces (city museums that do attract large crowds would need to manage them more intensively, though the current lack of tourism would significantly reduce that load)
  5. Touching the art is generally a no-no anyway, so there would be very little opportunity for transmission of the virus via people's hands, but museum shops and coat checks may need to remain closed to minimize that risk
  6. Museums that charge admission depend on those funds to stay alive, and need to again allow visitors in order to stem the bleeding as soon as possible so they don't go belly up
  7. Nonprofit and for-profit galleries that don't charge admission need to keep their physical presence in the public eye (online just doesn't cut it) - otherwise, their sources of revenue will soon dry up and leave them insolvent

We desperately need the lift that art provides, and we can't afford to lose these vital community resources for all time. With these thoughts in mind, I propose that Gov. Cuomo seriously consider adding museums and galleries to the list of businesses that may reopen their doors when the next phase of New York on Pause is implemented.

UPDATE, 5/9/20: The New York Times reported on May 8 that upstate museums could be allowed to open sooner than those downstate, in the third phase of re-openings (along with restaurants, but still behind some retail) rather than the fourth (which includes entertainment). You can read it here.

2 comments:

Robert C. (Bob) Conner said...

What would Lorenzo de Medici do?

david brickman said...

What else would he do - Pillage!