Museums face uncertainty as COVID-19 cases rise nationwide


Courtesy of Freskida Sejdiu

Freskida Sejdiu visited this display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in Aug. 2020. The MCA’s in-person closure began Monday, Nov. 16.

Nick Francis, Reporter

As COVID-19 restrictions tighten indoor gathering protocol, Chicagoland museums face uncertainty.

SESP freshman Freskida Sejdiu said museums have been her “hidden gem in the COVID world.” During the summer months, Sejdiu frequented the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Krannert Art Museum at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While many industries have completely shut down due to the pandemic, Sejdiu said museums provided a brief respite during the months of isolation.

“I’m very grateful that art museums are still a good creative outlet (that) I can go to that (is) somewhat normal,” she said. “It feels like it was pre-COVID.”

She said some museums, like the Krannert, even incorporated COVID-19 information directly into the art displays.

“I’d say the experience is very much similar, just that there’s limited capacity in the art museums themselves,” Sejdiu said. “You can still get as close to the artwork that you would have normally.”

Recent Chicago guidelines have limited capacity in museums to 40 percent, but Sejdiu said she has seen increased outreach from museums as they try to compensate for falling foot traffic.

Recent upticks in COVID-19 cases, though, have prompted the Museum of Contemporary Art to preemptively shut down in-person operations for at least two weeks, according to Gwendolyn Perry Davis, MCA’s senior director of operations. MCA’s two-week in-person closure began this past Monday.

However, in-person art is not the end-all-be-all for the MCA.

“Our mission of presenting contemporary art or exploring contemporary art continues even though the building is closed,” Perry Davis said. “There are tours and programming online. We hope that means that our visitors and public will continue to experience contemporary art with us.”

“The Commons Online” is one of MCA’s remote offerings that allow audiences to take a “deep dive” into the artwork the museum displays.

Communication freshman Morgan Frost is also looking to capitalize on remote opportunities in the meantime.

Frost has visited art and history museums during the past few months, but she said she was always cautious to maintain social distancing rules. The rise in case counts has prompted Frost to stop attending museums in person indefinitely.

“I’m kind of relieved that the city is shutting down… people are getting lenient,” she said. “I think we need this as a reminder that COVID is not over just because we’re sick of it.”

In the meantime, Frost said she plans to enjoy the peace and quiet as Chicago reimplements lockdown protocol.

And as the COVID-19 vaccine gets closer every day, Perry Davis said she is looking to the future when museums can open their doors at full capacity once more.

“We can be a place where the public and visitors come for a bit of respite enjoyment,” she said. “We want to be that space, so we’re looking forward to the day we reopen.”

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Twitter: @nick24francis

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