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The Arts

Memorial Art Gallery reopens as Finger Lakes region enters Phase Four

With masks, social distancing, and other safety measures in place, the University of Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery has reopened and is welcoming visitors. (University of Rochester photo / Sofia Tokar)
With masks, social distancing, and other safety measures in place, the museum welcomes visitors.

The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery (MAG) has reopened its doors more than three months after the coronavirus pandemic hit New York State.

“We’ve been planning for this since March and are excited to open back up to the community,” says Rachael Brown, director of marketing at MAG.

The museum welcomed back its members on Saturday, June 27, and will reopen to the general public on Wednesday, July 8. Like other museums and cultural institutions statewide, MAG closed suddenly in mid-March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. With continued social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing, New York has seen an overall downward trend in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Now, five New York regions—among them the Finger Lakes, which includes the city of Rochester—have moved into Phase Four, the final phase of the state’s regional reopening process. During this phase, museums and certain other arts and entertainment organizations are allowed to reopen, provided they comply with state and federal guidelines to help ensure people’s health and safety.

Meet me at the reopened MAG—but with a mask

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As public spaces go, museums and galleries are relatively low-risk for coronavirus transmission, especially given the ample indoor spaces as well as the minimal contact between people and with surfaces, says Brown. Nonetheless, the staff at MAG undertook a rigorous review of its processes in anticipation of reopening.

Brown says, “As we learned more about COVID-19, we refined our policies and put certain safety measures in place to make sure that MAG is safe for visitors.” These new precautions include:

  • Ensuring physical distancing
  • Limiting the number of guests in the museum or participants in any classes or workshops
  • Requiring visitors to wear masks at all times
  • Having prominent signage throughout the gallery to remind guests about the new policies
  • Increasing the cleaning and disinfecting protocols

“Our goal is to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome. We also hope to get feedback from our visitors and then refine these processes going forward,” Brown says.

Bridging the COVID-19 divide

Foot wearing white shoe next to bright pink floor decal at MAG asking people to stay six feet from each other and 18 inches from the art.
The reopened Memorial Art Gallery features prominent signage, including floor decals, throughout the museum to reinforce COVID-19 safety measures. (University of Rochester photo / Scott Abramson)

Although the museum itself was closed this spring, the Centennial Sculpture Park on the grounds remained open to visitors interested in viewing public art.

Meanwhile, the Eastman Performing Arts Medicine (EPAM) collaborated with the museum to create a series of art and music videos as “digital care packages” for staff and patients at the Medical Center to help bridge the divide imposed by COVID-19–related shutdowns.

And on social media, fans and followers of the MAG’s Instagram account could enjoy the museum’s #MAGatHome series, which highlighted works of art from the museum’s encyclopedic collection. “We’ve come to appreciate just how important our digital offerings are to people during these times,” says Meg Colombo, public relations and content manager at MAG.

Yet some artwork is still best experienced in person, admits Colombo. “When MAG first closed, our hearts broke knowing that people wouldn’t get a chance to see Judith Schaechter’s stained-glass art in person. It’s spectacular, and pictures don’t do it justice,” she says. Fortunately, several of the musuem’s current exhibitions, including Schaecter’s Path to Paradise, have been extended.

“We believe art heals, that it’s a soul-filling kind of experience,” Colombo says, “so we’re thrilled to welcome the community to MAG again.”

  • Read more about the Memorial Art Gallery’s reopening guidelines, including FAQs.
  • University employees and students can enjoy the MAG’s collections and exhibitions for free with their University ID.
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