Kate Ducharme, Visitor Services Assistant welcomes visitors as they arrive. Photo: Tim Forbes
Agnes staff weren’t thrilled when they had to close their doors in March due to the pandemic, but on July 7, the art museum reopened with precautions.
In a statement to The Journal, Kate Ducharme, visitor services assistant, and Kate Yüksel, communications coordinator, discussed how the Agnes reopening has been handled amidst the pandemic. “There were not any difficulties reopening,” Ducharme said. “I am happy with how things are running considering the amount of visitors we are receiving and that it is mandatory for everyone to wear masks.” Ducharme trained the Agnes’ public-facing receptionists on safe practices when greeting the public. “When we reopened, the required signage was put in place, hand sanitizing stations were installed at building entrances, the front desk work station was divided to ensure social distancing, a Plexi-glass shield was mounted on a greeting kiosk, and the reception team [was] trained on new procedures and facility updates to ensure guest and staff safety while on site,” Ducharme said. She added that, based on her observations, most guests are practicing social distancing and wearing masks. “We have been asking guests for contact tracing information and most provide without hesitation,” she said.
To ensure safe social distancing can be practiced in the Agnes, only 36 guests are allowed in the building at one time. “I am happy we reopened,” Ducharme said. “The guests I have spoken to have been so appreciative to be able to come visit and experience artwork as a break from these surreal times. I had one guest, whose wife was in the hospital receiving dialysis, say how thankful he was that we were open and how much he enjoyed the diverse artwork.”
Ducharme is confident the Agnes’ safety measures are working and believes it was well worth reopening so the public can once again experience the joy of the art galleries. When the Agnes closed in March, the online exhibition pages were expanded to feature more of the works. However, Ducharme insists the Agnes website doesn’t do justice to the galleries. “To be able to truly experience artwork, you have to see it in person to be able to note the details and see how an exhibition can relate to a story or feeling,” Ducharme said.
“While I am glad we are able to provide opportunities to engage with Agnes from home, visiting in person gives an individual the opportunity to create an emotional experience or relationship with an artist, an artwork or an artefact.” According to Yüksel, staff and visitors are happy about Agnes’ reopening. “Staff were excited to reopen, and the public has been responding positively to being able to visit once again,” she said. “Visitors have been coming in at a manageable pace, wearing masks, following physical distancing and in good spirits. The key to this situation is to be flexible and responsive to the ever-changing situation.”
–By Nathan Gallagher