The Birmingham Museum of Art announced it will reopen its doors to the public on Oct. 6, nearly seven months after pandemic shutdown.
The Birmingham Museum of Art has operated on its own timeline as it navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. In an abundance of caution on March 15, the BMA completely closed its doors to the public, four days before the Jefferson County Health Department issued an amended order suspending all non-essential businesses, including museums and art galleries. Two days prior, the museum suspended its guest programming, such as art classes and in-person guest lectures.
Before you head back to the Birmingham Museum of Art here are some things you need to know: Attendance is limited to 50% of the museum’s capacity. Masks will be required for all visitors over the age of two and staff. All touch interactives in the museum will be closed, including Bart’s ArtVenture, the children’s interactive space. Normally high traffic areas will have visuals to remind patrons to observe social distancing rules. In addition to keeping a six-foot distance from other guests, the museum will also require visitors to remain six feet away from works of art.
The museum’s in-house restaurant Oscar’s Café will also be closed.
In April, the Birmingham Museum of Art launched #BMAatHome, a virtual series of lectures, activities and digital events to engage patrons while at home. The program was bolstered in July when the institution received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts' Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. The BMA was one of 855 arts organizations around the nation to receive a financial assistance package designed to aid staff salaries, fees for artists, or contractual personnel, and facilities costs.
The BMA has also made two senior staff changes since March. In June, the museum named Dr. Emily G. Hanna, it’s Senior Curator of Arts of Africa and the Americas, as its first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Spurred by the protests and events around the nation calling for police reform and racial justice, the museum created the new position on its leadership team, announcing it saw an “urgency” to address systemic racism “from an institutional standpoint.” In August, the BMA announced the appointment of Nancy Hendrix as its new Director of Development. Hendrix was previously the deputy director of development at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery.
Exhibitions on view:
The BMA will reopen with two new exhibits: “Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments” and “Wall to Wall.”
“All Things Bright and Beautiful,” which originally debuted on March 7, will also reopen to the public.
“Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments”: The fourth installment of the museum’s “Ways of Seeing” exhibition series examining themes with objects in the museum’s permanent collections of global art, “Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments” will explore relationships between arts and architects, as well as the power and problems of buildings and monuments.
“Wall to Wall”: With the ongoing project “Wall to Wall,” the BMA will explore the themes of communal gathering while inviting artists to enhance the museum’s lobby and cafe with artwork inspired by the city of Birmingham. The inaugural iteration of “Wall to Wall” will feature four works created by Alaska-based artist Merritt Johnson, whose work addresses the coal and steel industries' impact on land, water and communities of color.
“All Things Bright and Beautiful”: Named after the painting by renowned artist Amy Sherald, the works of art in “All Things Bright and Beautiful” examine themes of power and agency. Among the works in the exhibit is “Imperishable Stars” a painting by Birmingham artist Erin LeAnn Mitchell, whose work examines beauty and race.
Watch Mitchell’s conversation about “Imperishable Stars” with BMA director Dr. Graham Boettcher for his digital series “Director’s Cut” below: