Before entering the Duke’s beloved Nasher Art Museum, the top of the door displays an array of graphics and words welcoming visitors as well as new COVID-19 protocols. Next to these directions, the graphic reads: “Art is waiting for you! We are so glad you are here.
After nearly a year and a half closed to the public and mostly by appointment for the Duke community, the Nasher has officially reopened. The museum currently offers free admission to all visitors and is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Thursday evenings. As in-person tours for the Duke and Durham community resumed, the museum team also developed ways to engage the community from home.
Wendy Hower, director of engagement and marketing at Nasher explained how “the pandemic has grown [the museum] to create new virtual content ”, such as virtual tours of exhibitions, which can be viewed on their website. While visitors can now experience the exhibits in person, Nasher curator Adria Gunter is excited to continue producing new virtual tours so that the collections can be “accessible to a wider audience.”
In preparing to reopen to the public, Nasher staff had to consider the safety of museum staff and visitors. After discussions with the Duke administration, the team put in place protocols to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Signs placed around the atrium and galleries list COVID-19 policies, including staying home when unwell, wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing – all in accordance with public health guidelines campus-wide.
Nasher staff are eager for a possible return to pre-COVID hours of operation, which included weekends. A staff shortage at the Nasher, as at other establishments on campus, has caused them to reduce the number of opening days. Hower said Nasher staff were “looking forward” to opening the museum full time and had made opening Thursday evenings and weekends their “number one goal.”
On the day of Nasher’s reopening, a new collector’s exhibition began, titled “In Relation to Power: Politically Engaged Works from the Collection,” which highlights artists’ reaction to political events. The show was organized entirely remotely by Adria Gunter and Marshall Price, Nasher’s chief curator. The collection consists of various mediums, such as videos, sculptures, paintings and a piece called “Push Pull” by artist Hugo McCloud made exclusively from plastic bags.
Another popular feature of the museum, the Nasher Café is a favorite with students on campus. After 18 months of closure Aidan Peters, the cafe manager, is delighted that the cafe is finally open. Peters can’t wait to reopen the cafe on the weekends to appease the students’ love of brunch at the Nasher.
Joyce Huang senior, intern for the Nasher marketing team, enjoyed “working behind the scenes” for the transition to reopening and is delighted to see the students back in space.
While the pandemic has been difficult for the Nasheres, staff are hoping to slowly return to offering pre-pandemic experiences such as in-person events, increased student and community engagement, and of course, weekend brunch. .
“The Nasher is your art museum, Duke students. We exist because of the students at Duke, ”Hower said. “We really missed the Duke students and can’t wait for them to be back.”
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