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Zimmerli Art Museum reopens for first time since March 2020 with eight new exhibits

The Zimmerli Art Museum is open once again for in-person activities. – Photo by Matan Dubnikov

The Zimmerli Art Museum on the College Avenue campus has reopened for in-person activities after being closed throughout the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The museum's Interim Director, Curator of American art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs Donna Gustafson, spoke about the reopening and the museum’s future events.

“We are part of the campus community and had always imagined that we would reopen with the University,” she said. “Since the first day of the fall semester was Sept. 1, that was our date to reopen too.”

Prior to the pandemic, Zimmerli was open on Tuesdays through Sundays and featured various events such as Art After Hours, in which it stayed open until 9 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, Gustafson said. When the museum closed to the public it featured several virtual events and online exhibitions. 

With the recent reopening, she said the museum’s main goal is to increase their reach to the community, and they have already begun to do this by readjusting their hours as well as redesigning their signage and website. 

Zimmerli’s new hours are Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Gustafson said. The museum will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“Changing our hours was an easy way to become more accessible to people who worked 9-5 Monday through Friday and were busy weekends,” she said. “We also thought that being open later Wednesdays and Fridays … and being open every Thursday until 8 p.m. would be more convenient for students, faculty and staff.”

Gustafson said the museum is featuring eight new exhibits and a large collection of Russian, European and American art as well as other regular exhibitions. The first SparkNight, an event designed to engage with the view of art, will be held on Oct. 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

She said the reopening has been smooth so far, though she understands that people are still hesitant to come back to campus and participate in group activities. One of the challenges with bringing more foot traffic to the museum has been getting the word out that the museum is free and open to all, with places for students to rest and study between classes. 

“There are always surprises and I expect that we will continue to face challenges,” Gustafson said. “So far … the staff has done an excellent job of keeping the museum moving ahead and creating excellent programs for our visitors.”

Many employees of the museum have continued to maintain it and work throughout the pandemic. She said it was important that staff members went and checked on the art every day to ensure nothing was stolen or the quality was still intact.

“There was a lot to do to get eight new exhibitions up and running and it was also necessary for us to create systems for social distancing in the offices and set protocols for the return of staff first, then the return of visitors,” Gustafson said.

Some upcoming events they have include a guest speaker, photo historian Ericka Wolf, on Oct. 1 at 12 p.m., a family art-making event on Oct. 10 and 1 of 3 archival events on Oct. 21, which will be in celebration of activist and author Angela Davis, she said. They will also be recording and posting their online events to their YouTube channel

Gustafson said that visitors can expect a full roster of events this year, with intriguing collaborations and interactive exhibits. 

“I would like to say that visitors can expect the unexpected,” she said. “We are invested in experimentation and accessibility. We are looking for new ways to engage and to collaborate with faculty and students.”

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