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Arts & Life

The Nelson-Atkins Is Set To Reopen In September — Here's What To Know About Visiting

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courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
This Greek marble lion (here, wearing a mask) in the Nelson-Atkins' sculpture hall dates to 325 B.C.E. According to the museum, "The artist who sculpted it never saw a real lion, and so he combined the features of more familiar animals," such as a cow, goat, and horse.

Look for smaller crowds, masks, timed-tickets, fast-casual food — and lots of cleaning — when the museum reopens next month.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art announced plans Wednesday to reopen on September 12.

Museum officials say a few factors weighed heavily on the reopening date, including the complexities of a large institution, as well as uncertainty about COVID-19.

“That was our framework,” said museum director and CEO Julián Zugazagoitia, “that we would be among the first to close. But maybe not the first to reopen.”

The Nelson-Atkins has been closed since March 14. This shutdown did expedite some capital projects, like resurfacing and repainting the ceilings in the Bloch Building, which required large scaffolding, and replacing tiles around the reflecting pool on the north side of the museum.

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Laura Spencer/KCUR 89.3
While the museum was closed to the public, renovation work was underway inside the Bloch Building and, on Friday, work continued outside in the north plaza.

In talking to experts and colleagues in the museum field, locally and nationally, Zugazagoitia said, “we are now very, very reassured by all of the measures that the museum has put in place to reopen safely for everyone.”

Museum admission will still be free. Two major changes: timed tickets (available starting August 25) and required masks, for visitors and staff — to promote social distancing, and restrict attendance numbers in the museum and galleries.

“We will be having an experience that actually is going to be very rewarding,” he said. “The museum will be less crowded than on a crowded day. And therefore people who enjoy seeing the arts in a very calm way will be able to do it.”

The museum will also be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for deep cleaning.

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Laura Spencer/KCUR 89.3
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, closed since mid-March, plans to reopen on September 12.

Rozzelle Court Restaurant will reopen to the public, shifting gears from cafeteria-style to fast-casual, with a streamlined menu.

The Atkins Auditorium remains closed, and Tivoli at the Nelson will continue its Tivoli at Home series, curated by Jerry Harrington.

Much of the programming will stay online. “Those experiments — whether it’s our digital presence or others — we’re thinking: What will stay after COVID?,” said Zugazagoitia. “We’re also using this as a testing moment.”

The exhibition “Gordon Parks x Muhammad Ali: The Image of a Champion, 1966/1970,” including 55 photographs Parks took for Life magazine, has been extended through April 4, 2021. And the traveling show “Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking,” a retrospective of the work of the master printmaker, will also be on view.

Related: Muhammad Ali Without The Bravado: A Gordon Parks Photo Exhibit In Kansas City Shows A Quieter Champ

“For the people who love the Nelson," said Zugazagoitia, "I think they will want to see their all-time favorites, and they will be there for them."

He added, "And also for those who don’t come very often, there’s so much to offer that I think it will be joyful to be back.”