Los Angeles museums large and small remain closed due to the pandemic, even while commercial galleries that display and sell art–and shopping malls, for that matter–have been allowed to reopen for indoor activity. Even retail shops at museums can have shoppers inside, even if those shoppers cannot then visit the rest of the attached museum. That feels unfair to some in the museum world, and now a petition campaign seeks to bring their concerns to local officials.
“When they opened up art galleries and indoor malls, I was like, ‘This does not feel right,’” Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin told The New York Times last month. “Our museums function as real places of respite and healing and inspiration—they help people a lot.”
In San Francisco, some large museums were briefly allowed to reopen in October, but shut back down amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Today those museums announced they would begin opening back up on March 7, with new distancing and safety protocols in place.
But in Los Angeles, where the pandemic has had far greater impact, museums have remained fully shut since March. The closure is reportedly costing “millions of dollars a day in lost revenues” for the cultural institutions.
The petition cites data that reopening proponents say indicates that there is a far greater chance of spreading COVID-19 associated with indoor dining and exercise; both of those activities are currently prohibited in L.A. County along with visiting indoor museums.
Governor Newsom’s office told The New York Times that, while officials understand that “museums are critical to the fabric of our society,” there remain significant risks associated with museum visits.
Museums are “high-risk environments because they draw visitors from across the state and nation, increasing the risk of transmission of the virus,” the official stated. “Additionally, visitors often stay in museums for extended periods of time again increasing the risk of transmission.”