After being closed for six months in the height of quarantine and coronavirus, the Polk Museum of Art has reopened to the public as of Sept. 8, and they have some new things in store.

Almost all businesses and workplaces had to temporarily close or adjust their business hours and policies because of the current state of the world. Lakeland’s very own Polk Museum of Art, the art museum only two blocks from the Florida Southern campus, was one of those places. Finally, they were able to reopen.

Business hours have been modified: the museum is now open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on Monday, Sunday, and major holidays. 

To ensure everyone’s safety, there are new policies and guidelines in place for anyone who plans to visit the museum since the reopening.

“When people show up, they will have to have their temperatures taken at the door,” the museum’s Executive Director and Chief Curator, Dr. Alexander Rich, said. “[Visitors] will have to wear masks at all times in order to enter the museum and be asked a few short coronavirus screening questions.”

During quarantine and the temporary closure, they have kept themselves busy with virtual events and art activity kits. However, there’s nothing quite like the physical presence of people exploring and roaming the museum. The museum staff is mostly looking forward to allowing the public back in the museum and letting the art be admired again.

“[The art] needs to have that life breathed into it by people looking at it in the gallery,” Rich said.

Amidst all the chaos, some good has come out of the pandemic. The museum first opened in 1966 as a community museum, and being forced to live and operate remotely has led to the development of new virtual programming. Dr. Rich feels that the coronavirus pandemic has propelled the museum to fully enter the twenty-first century.

With these new developments and opening back up to the public, they will be able to interact with the guests physically, as well as virtually.

“We now have a blog [and] reach a much broader audience and community than we ever have before in our history,” Rich said.

Virtual programming is not the only innovative creation that came out of this struggle. There’s also a new program coming up this month called the Museum Ambassadors Program. 

The initiative for this program is to allow students to be more involved with the museum, and hopefully get an inside look at what it’s like to work there. The ambassadors will be able to do things like see how exhibitions are created at the museum and work closely with the museum staff.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to get involved at the museum,” Rich said. “We’re really hopeful that many students want to take up this opportunity to get to know the museum, get to have their voices heard in the arts at Florida Southern and become a big key element of our community organization.”

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