Why This Matters: Local museums have prepared for months to welcome visitors back. Here’s what you can expect when you are ready to return.
By Bernie Petit, Krista Terrell and Giovanna Torres
ASC Marketing & Communications
It’s fitting the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture at Levine Center for the Arts reopened on October 1 after being closed to the public since March due to COVID-19.
The reopening marked the first day of National Arts & Humanities Month, a collective recognition of the importance of the arts and creativity in America.
After being unable to visit the Charlotte museums that shape our lives and our city for half a year, residents are now able to experience the cultural institutions in-person.
The museums prepared for months to welcome guests back. Here’s what you can expect when you are ready to return.
New Safety Protocols
When you walk into one of the uptown museums, you’ll be required to wear a mask. If you don’t have a mask, a free, disposable one will be available. Cashless ticketing is being promoted, social distancing is a must, hand sanitation stations are plentiful and cleaning happens throughout the day.
Museums are operating at reduced capacity to ensure the visitor experience is comfortable and safe. To visit Discovery Place, which is operating at 25 percent capacity, each guest must secure their entry ticket in advance through the center’s website, have their temperature checked upon arrival and answer a series of health screening questions.
“With our reduced capacity, there was plenty of room for social distancing and guests appreciated all of the safety measures – everyone wearing masks, increased cleaning, advanced tickets and more,” said Debra Smul, chief marketing officer. “We have exciting activities in all of the labs and our course, our animals are very excited to see visitors again.”
The Levine Center for the Art museums – the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the Gantt Center and Mint Museum – and the Levine Museum of the New South met weekly to coordinate reopening efforts, said Mint President Todd Herman.
The collaboration resulted in the four museums reopening on a similar timeline, implementing similar signage inside the museums reminding visitors to know their W’s (“Wear a cloth face covering,” “Wait 6 feet apart” and “Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer”) and coordinating to offer free admission for all frontline workers until the end of the calendar year.
“There is this consistency between us to give members of the community comfort,” he said.
Virtual Programs Staying
During the six months the Mint was closed, “virtual programming was our bridge to our community and our audience,” Herman said. The museum transitioned its programming to digital platforms and kept it free so more families could participate.
“Going forward, what we discovered was that some of these digital platforms and programs that we moved to online worked really well, so we were able to take the best of those and continue them,” Herman said. “This is one more access point for us to bring the beauty of art and arts education into more homes.”
Similarly, the Gantt Center has leaned into virtual programming. Notably, its “Unmasked” series discusses inequities impacting the Black community, from food insecurities and education to voting rights.
“Even though our facility is opening, we are continuing our online programming like Unmasked, Family First and others so visitors can continue to be connected to the Gantt whether in person or online,” said Bonita Buford, the museum’s chief operations officer.
Charlotte museums are not only going above and beyond to keep visitors safe; they’re bursting at the seams with new experiences:
- The Bechtler reopened its doors with its newest exhibition, “1 Cent Life.” It features select works of art from the landmark 1964 print portfolio written by Chinese-American visual artist and poet Walasse Ting.
- Charlotte Museum of History reopened Sept. 19 with an outdoor, ticketed event. Museum grounds will be open one Saturday each month through the end of the year for self-guided tours; buildings and grounds remain closed to daily visitation.
- Visitors at the Gantt can experience the new exhibition, “Inter|Sectionality: Diaspora Art from the Creole City.” The exhibit highlights the role of social justice in combatting the heightened disparities people of color face and showcases the work of national and international artists, including Charlotte artists Monique Luck and Stephanie J. Woods.
- The Levine Museum is featuring “Counting UP: What’s on Your Ballot?”, a new in-person and online exhibit on voting rights that features the work of seventeen local artists sharing what voting means to them. There’s also a new dedicated hour for seniors and at-risk populations to visit from 9-10 a.m. Monday through Saturday.
- Perhaps the most striking addition to the Mint Museum Uptown is “Foragers,” a four-story installation by Brooklyn-based artist Summer Wheat and celebrating the tradition of women craft makers. “Tune In,” a 4,000-pound sculpture by local artist Richard Lazes is on display on Wells Fargo Plaza at Levine Center for the Arts. The multidimensional work displays a collage of rolling snippets of media programming from the 1950s and 60s. Work by Charlotte artists di’Angelo Dia and Julio Gonzales can be found at the Mint Uptown and Mint Museum Randolph, respectively.
“We want to celebrate that we’re now back – social distancing – as much as possible within our community,” Herman said, “as well as what’s here in Charlotte and what we have missed in Charlotte by being home.”
Know Before You Go
Ready to visit a local museum? Check out the full health and safety protocols, visitor tips and hours of operations for: