Page 8 - BusinessWest July 20, 2020
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ties ranging from signs reminding people to wear masks, wash their hands, and stay six feet apart to plexiglass barriers and one-way directions at certain areas.
“One of the things people loved is all the inter- active exhibits we provided, both permanent and traveling. Of course, now, we’ve had to be very careful about that,” Simpson said, noting that one nod to the new reality is the Yop, a Dr. Seuss char- acter but also a new cell-phone app packed with maps, scavenger hunts, and self-guided tours that lend some interactivity to the museums in a safe way.
“We anticipate families will be among first visi- tors, and older adults will follow once they feel more comfortable,” she added, noting, of course, that what we know about COVID-19 has evolved, and is no longer recognized as dangerous only to older people.
“We took COVID-19 very seriously, and we’ve engaged in months of planning,” Simpson said. “Even though we were closed, our staff worked very hard behind the scenes. We had staff talking to other museums, sharing best practices, attend- ing webinars and conference calls, reading CDC guidelines — all to understand how we can safe- guard our environment. It’s not like a classroom setting; it’s not like a retail setting — it’s a very dif- ferent set of physical environments that we need- ed to think about very carefully.”
In addition to the basic rules around masks and distancing, MASS MoCA visitors who experi- ence fever-like symptoms while at the museum are asked to self-identify to staff, and to enable contact tracing, should that be necessary, all tick- et buyers are required to provide contact informa- tion and names of everyone in the party — both
ways to prevent isolated infections from becom- ing community problems.
That said, the galleries themselves are mas- sive — “we measure our gallery space by the acre here,” Joseph said — but high-traffic areas like stairwells are now one-directional, the entrance and exit have been separated, and the admissions desk has moved outside, accepting no more than 75 timed tickets every half-hour to keep crowds at state-mandated levels.
performing arts, mostly emerging artists.
In short, it’s tough when everything shuts
“MASS MoCA is a landlord — we have between
30 and 40 tenants on our 16-acre, 28-building former factory campus,” she noted, and a core group of employees remained on site to man- age them, but also reach out virtually with daily ‘art moments’ — “like a greatest hits of MASS MoCA, some fan-favorite exhibitions. We wanted
The museum, at one point, was considering five different schedul- ing plans for those galleries, which were gradually whittled down to one plan as the reopening date became more crystallized. Joseph credited state Sen. Adam Hinds and Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, for keeping the museum abreast of what was hap- pening at the state level.
“We learned lessons from the closure; we came to understand we need this online presence, and it needs to be developed on a parallel track with our on-site experiences.
    “As guidance about the hospitality and tour- ism sectors started to come down in late spring, we had a pretty good sense of when we’d be open, and we were able to come up with an exhibition calendar that made sense,” she explained.
Like many museums, MASS MoCA has a
long exhibition cycle that’s planned out well in advance, so most installations were ready to go this month. Meanwhile, the museum staged its first concert last week, for an audience limited to 100 — including staff — in a space that can typi- cally pack in 4,000.
For the region’s live-music scene, it’s a wel- come start. MASS MoCA alone usually hosts performing-arts events 40 weekends per year, and about half its resources go toward supporting the
to remind people how great it would feel to be back here, walking these halls, reflecting in the galleries, taking in performances on our stages all across campus.”
It was in many ways “an excruciating few months,” she added, yet the museum staff was inspired at times, too.
“Visitors kept in touch not just with donations, but with deeply felt personal messages telling us how much MASS MoCA means to them, or shar- ing landmark memories from their own lives that have taken place within these walls,” she told BusinessWest. “As our hearts were aching from being closed and dealing with all the daily trou- bles of the world, we
were also reassured
by all the gratitude
Continued on page 41
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  8 JULY 20, 2020

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