BY ELLIE HENSLEY
Art provides entertainment, provokes thought, breaks down barriers and teaches people about different cultures. At a time when the world needs art more than ever, the High Museum is reopening its doors, and it’s ready to welcome people back in a safe and responsible way for everyone.
Because gatherings of more than 50 are still prohibited due to the Governor’s COVID-19 restrictions, many performance-based arts and cultural organizations are still closed for the time being. Fortunately, art museums can be enjoyed while practicing social distancing, and the High Museum took notes from arts and cultural organizations around the world to develop protocols like timed ticketing and a mask policy.
We spoke with High Museum Director Randall Suffolk about what visitors can expect in the coming months and how it has expanded its virtual offerings during quarantine.
How to Plan Your Visit
The High Museum of Art will reopen from July 7 to July 17 to all members and frontline workers, including health-care workers, teachers, grocery store clerks, delivery truck drivers and logistics workers. Admission is free to these groups with a valid ID.
Starting on July 18, the museum reopens to the general public. Visitors - including Members - must reserve their timed tickets online here. Visitors who arrive early will be required to wait until their time slot to be admitted, and no guests will be admitted after their 10-minute window has passed.
Safety protocols include:
- Required face coverings for everyone over the age of 2
- No cash accepted at the Woodruff Arts Center parking deck
- Sanitizing stations throughout the museum
- No physical maps available on-site
“We worked very hard to take advantage of the collective thinking and wisdom that’s out there,” said Suffolk. “The High Museum of Art is part of the Association of Art Museum Directors that includes 200 museums across North America, so throughout this pandemic we’ve been on weekly Zoom calls. We’ve also been looking at reopening plans across Europe and Asia and deconstructing the model.”
The High also found guidance from fellow arts organizations in Atlanta and the American Camp Association, as it made plans to reopen its Summer Camps ahead of its gallery reopening.
“One of the single benefits of the disease is the extent it has brought us closer together and helped us learn from each other,” Suffolk said.
See the High’s full list of safety precautions here.
Paa Joe (Ghanaian, born 1947), Fort Gross-Friedrichsburg – Princetown.1683 Brandenburg, 1717-24Ahanta, 1724 Neths, 1872 Britain, 2004–2005 and 2017, emele wood and enamel.Peabody Essex Museum, gift of Jack Shainman Gallery, 2019.58.2. Photo © Paa Joe, courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
In addition to the thousands of works in the High’s permanent collection, there are several special exhibitions now on view:
- The Plot Thickens: Storytelling in European Print Series (through July 19): a series of etchings, lithographs and woodcuts that tell stories ranging from Shakespearean tragedies and biblical Parables to German legal codes.
- Paa Joe: Gates of No Return (through August 16): The body of work beginning in 2005 from Ghanian artist Paa Joe, the most celebrated figurative coffin maker of his generation.
- Pioneers, Influencers and Rising Voices: Women in the Collection (Ongoing): In observance of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote, this installation is drawn from the High Museum’s collection and features artworks made exclusively by women.
Installation of the museum's latest Piazza installation is underway.
The High is also introducing a new installation in its Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza just in time for its reopening. “Murmuration,” by Brooklyn-based SO — IL, is a sculptural pavilion specially commissioned for the site. The 2,350-square-foot mesh canopy includes water pools and perches and reflects upon the loss of billions of birds around the world in recent decades.
A Fully Functioning Virtual Museum
The High Museum has been closed since mid-March, but the public has still been able to enjoy a wealth of art-related online offerings through its website and social media. This includes “Ask Me Anything” sessions with curators and staff members, explorations of its collections, art activities for kids, virtual events like Toddler Thursdays and even custom Zoom backgrounds based on works from its collection. The High also participates in Field Trip Fridays, a regional partnership of local museums and attractions that provides free weekly virtual experiences to visitors of all ages.
Make your Zoom calls more fun with a customized background from the High's collection.
“We’ve done as much as we could to pivot to being a virtual museum,” Suffolk said. “We’ve done a lot of programming on our YouTube channel and highlighted a number of different works throughout the course of the pandemic. With events, our first reaction was not to cancel, but to see if there was a way we could do it online.”
With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, it’s likely the effects of the pandemic will be felt in all industries, including the arts, well into the future. For Suffolk, that means reframing the way the High Museum measures its success.
“Some of the ways we defined success will not be as relevant in the near term, like trying to engage with as many people as possible with what we do physically by coming through the museum,” he said. “Instead, we want to reinforce the extraordinary experience you’re going to have, and also make people feel comfortable and safe in our spaces.”