McALLEN — Nearly two months after it was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19, the International Museum of Art & Science held a soft-reopening on Tuesday for its members.
The museum opened with new safety measures to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, including operating at 25% capacity and new hours of operation.
The museum will open to members and the public on Thursday.
“The first thing that we wanted to be sure of was that all of our staff and our visitors would feel comfortable and safe,” Ann Fortescue, president and director for IMAS, said. “That meant securing personal protective equipment for the staff such as masks and gloves, and plenty of hand sanitizer so that we could have that available for both staff and for visitors.”
Hand sanitizing stations are available at every doorway in the museum, and sneeze guards have been placed at the admissions desks.
The museum’s new hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The daily breaks from 1 to 3 p.m. will be utilized to allow museum staff the opportunity to clean and disinfect.
Thursday mornings from 9 to 10 a.m. will be reserved for immune compromised and older visitors without children. Wednesday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be reserved for children with sensory sensitivities.
Since closing its doors on March 20, the museum has focused on creating online curriculums and activities for many of its members to participate in including Toddler Tuesday, Workshop Wednesday and Folk Art Friday. The museum is currently hosting a virtual summer camp in which curators create online tutorials for various arts and crafts.
IMAS has also placed many of its exhibits on its website, www.https://theimasonline.org, including a virtual art exhibit by the art program at the UTRGV.
For Fortescue, she said that it was important for the museum to open its doors again for the sake of providing a place of calm for those who may be stressed over the pandemic.
“I think museums around the world nurture people’s creativity, they’re places of reflection, they’re often places of respite,” Fortescue said. “I think that even though many of us have been sheltering at home and alone, there’s still been a fair amount of stress — for some individuals, much higher stress levels than others. Museums are places where you can often let go of a lot, if not all, of that stress.”
Hal Wallace and his wife Marian were among the members who made the trip back to the museum on Tuesday. As they gazed upon artwork on display by students of McAllen ISD, Wallace said that he and his wife had missed the museum.
“We’re glad to be back,” Wallace said. “It’s part of the cultural fabric of the area, and we need more of it.”
Being among the first to venture back to IMAS, Wallace compared his wife and himself to the early pioneers.
“We call ourselves the ‘new pioneers,’” Wallace said with a laugh. “The old pioneers, they faced risks. Now we’re facing new risks, but like the old pioneers did, we have to keep pushing forward.”