Bennington Museum prepares for reopening

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BENNINGTON — The Bennington Museum will welcome back visitors on July 3 with the extension of three shows, new sculptures in its wildflower trail and the addition of a "People's Choice" exhibit selected by visitors to the museum's website, the organization has announced.

"We are very happy to be able to welcome back visitors to Bennington Museum in a controlled and limited way to help ensure the safety of visitors and staff," executive director Joshua Campbell Torrance said in a news release. "I personally look forward to seeing guests in our galleries, as well as on the George Aiken Wildflower Trail and the rest of our grounds which will soon to be augmented with several sculptures created by various local artists."

The museum closed March 17 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Torrance has since offered frequent virtual tours of the museum's many spaces on its Facebook page.

When it reopens next month, the museum's galleries and store will be open 1 to 6 p.m. from Saturday through Monday and 1 to 8 p.m. on Fridays. The new hours allows the museum to carry out a deep cleaning before opening.

The Bennington organization consulted other museums and historic houses, polled members and followed state guidelines to develop its coronavirus-related policies, communications director Alexina Jones said.

Starting June 1, museums and other indoor cultural organizations were permitted by the state to operate at 25 percent of their fire-safety capacity, subject to certain restrictions. The Bennington Museum had long planned for a July reopening and opted not to "flip flop," though a soft reopening for the museum's store started on June 19, Jones said.

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Museum visitors ages two and older will be required to wear masks and are encouraged to bring their own, according to the announcement. The museum store will also offer specially made Jane Stickle Quilt face coverings for sale.

Visitors' temperatures will be taken via non-contact thermometers — something not required by the state "but absolutely something the museum wants to do," Jones said. Anyone whose temperature exceeds 100 degrees will not be admitted that day.

"We understand that it is difficult for many people to step back into their 'normal' patterns of visiting cultural organizations and stepping out in general," Torrance said. "So we have put in place a number of safety protocols, to ensure a safe environment. However, we will need visitors to also be proactive in keeping safe as well."

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Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the museum, and signage and distance markers will help to promote social distancing at the museum's entrance, according to the announcement. Occupancy limits will be posted at each of the museum's galleries.

The museum has opted to extend three installations interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak through Nov. 3: "Our Voices, Our Streets: Photographs by Kevin Bubriski," which chronicles local protests between 2001 and 2004; "Gritty Streets to Green Mountains: Paintings by Scot Borofsky," which reflects the artist's work over the past 40 years; and "(re)Sounding," a project that uses instruments in the museum's collection in new compositions.

The organization will add two additional exhibits to replace "Love, Marriage, & Divorce" and "Robert Frost: At Present in Vermont," which will be postponed partly because the pandemic made it difficult to secure desired loans.

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Members of the public are being asked to help develop an exhibit to help fill the void. The "People's Choice Exhibit" asks fans, through five mini-surveys available on the museum's website, to select objects currently held in storage for display. Items include artwork, furniture, military uniforms and jewelry. "It's kind of a 'best of, according to you,'" said Jones.

The museum is also partnering with the annual North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show this year to display 12 to 15 sculptures outdoors throughout its campus.

Admission to the museum is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students over 18. Admission is free for younger students and museum members. Visitors who present a receipt of a takeout order from a local restaurant will be offered admission for $10.

The museum store will be open 1 to 6 p.m. from June 26 through 29. Starting July 3, it will remain open until 8 p.m. on Fridays, in sync with the museum's hours.

The Grandma Moses Schoolhouse and the museum's research library will remain closed, though inquiries may be submitted to collections manager Callie Raspuzzi at library@benningtonmuseum.org.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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