'It's Restorative': Chrysler Museum Opens Its Doors Again
When the Chrysler Museum closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was supposed to be for two weeks.
That turned into three months.
Museum director Erik Neil said that many weddings, event rentals and other activities had to be canceled over this time, resulting in a loss of income.
“So, we've cut our budget by about a million dollars,” Neil said. But he’s proud he could keep his staff employed through the closure thanks to some reserve funds and a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
There are some minor adjustments in visiting. The visitor’s desk at the entrance is pushed farther back, to allow for social distancing between people in line. It also bears a plexiglass sneeze guard at its front. The entryway is separate from the exit to prevent people from crossing one another. Neil says extra cleaning is going on (I saw several staff wiping down benches while visiting), and hand sanitizer stations are located throughout. Interactive exhibits for adults and children are closed for now.
While the museum can handle up to 400 visitors right now, appointments are encouraged and masks are required.
“I've got my mask on and all the staff and the visitors are wearing masks,” Neil said, “and that seems to be working just fine.”
While budget cuts have postponed some planned exhibitions, some popular collections have an extended stay.
This was good news for one visitor, Jim McGough.
“I wanted to see the Munch exhibit,” McGough said. “I was very saddened that I didn't get here before the museum closed, and I feared that it would be gone.”
“Happily, we were able to extend the Edvard Munch show and keep that through the summer,” Neil said.
Another interesting exhibit, Jim Dine’s portfolio of 44 lithographs featuring characters from the original Collodi story of Pinocchio, will also stick around a little longer.
Visitor Clark Lee Merriam was struck by the contemporary glass exhibit. “The new Dan Daily exhibit of busts is amusing and delightful and completely different than anything I’ve ever seen before.” Merriam said the beauty and humor in art is good for the soul. "It's restorative," she said, to visit the museum.
The newest exhibit, The Eye That Follows, is by Ethiopian-born artist Dawit N.M. who came to Hampton Roads as a child.
“He's done some great music videos, and he does beautiful photography, all about his life,” Neil said. “Revealing things about his family and about the Ethiopian community here in our city, in our region.”
Neil's favorite photograph in Dawit N.M.'s exhibit is called Don't make look like the kids on TV, featuring two girls hiding from the camera under pink jackets.
"In this exhibition, which has many different types of views, you realize that people have their individual stories and their individual experiences," Neil said.
"And they don't necessarily fit a preconceived stereotype."