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10 outdoor art spaces, parks, and landscapes that have reopened or are reopening soon

Don't Forget SPF (And a Mask)

10 outdoor art spaces, parks, and landscapes that have reopened or are reopening soon

God Bless America by Seward Johnson on view at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey. (sk/ Flickr)

As many Americans tentatively ease back into their museum- and park-going routines, numerous cultural institutions and public spaces are slowly coming back to life on a limited/adjusted basis after months of hibernation to greet them, with coronavirus precautions firmly in place. Meanwhile, large, indoor gallery-centered museums continue to plot their eventual returns. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, for example, plans to reopen in late August while the Getty Center in Los Angeles has still not announced its phased re-opening dates.

In many locales, a trickle of small but positive re-openings has taken place in recent weeks and/or are slated for mid-to-late July. With an eye toward public landscapes, open-air museums, and multifaceted art spaces with room to spread out, here’s a small sampling of places across the country that have reopened or expanded public access or are due to allow visitors in the very near future.

We will add to this list accordingly.

The Chicago Riverwalk 

Closed to the public in March, the bustling Chicago Riverwalk reopened in June. It’s open to mask-wearing, socially-distancing visitors from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Vendors and recreational opportunities are being brought back in phases, so plan ahead. Elsewhere in Chicago, the 606 reopened to foot and bicycle traffic on June 22.

Crystal Bridges American Museum of Art and The MomentaryBentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Bridges and its contemporary art-focused new sibling, the Momentary, have both reopened with limited capacity. Free, timed-entry tickets are available (along with limited walk-up tickets) for both institutions. Enhanced safety measures are also in effect including the mandatory donning of face coverings and enforced social distancing practices. Certain areas/amenities will also remain closed, limited, or altered for the timing being including a shuttle between the two spaces, which remains suspended. The expansive trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges also remain open for socially distant public enjoyment.

Glenstone — Potomac, Maryland

The bucolic grounds of Glenstone, a private contemporary art museum just outside of Washington, D.C., is currently open to the public from Thursdays through Sundays. (Hard-to-come by advance free tickets are released in three-month increments on the first day of each month.) Ticket-holding guests must adhere to an established schedule to avoid crowds while the museum operates at a reduced capacity. Masks and social distancing are required. On July 23, the museum’s indoor pavilions will reopen with additional safety precautions in place.

Governors Island — New York City

Governors Island, a sprawling and laid-back 172-acre retreat in the Middle of New York Harbor with a West 8-designed back half, but also a National Park Service-administered National Monument site in its northern section, is reopening for an abbreviated season on July 15. Indoor public programming remains postponed while tours and historic sites are canceled/closed until further notice. Outdoor event and athletic field permits are also canceled through at least July 31. Various other amenities and activities will not be available, so plan ahead for recreation of the passive variety like long waterfront walks. Ferries to the island will also run on an adjusted, reservation-only schedule to limit the number of visitors on the island at once. Ferry service from Brooklyn has also been moved from Pier 6 to Atlantic Basin in Red Hook.

Grounds for Sculpture — Hamilton, New Jersey

New Jersey’s Grounds for Sculpture, a 42-acre sculpture park, arboretum, and museum near Trenton, reopens to members via a timed reservation system on July 16 for the “purpose of solitary recreation.” (Those who want to visit are encouraged to purchase memberships.) Masks wearing is required when social distancing is not possible and buildings/indoor spaces will remain closed aside from public restrooms. Water fountains and food service is also unavailable although the upscale Rat’s Restaurant is open for reservation-only al fresco dining.

The High Line — New York City

For New Yorkers longing to experience The High Line sans the oppressive crush of tourists, now is the time. The park opens on July 16 with limited new hours (noon through 8 p.m.) and a timed-entry reservation system. The only access point to the High Line, for now, is at Gansevoort Street. Visitors who manage to score a batch-released entry pass must wear a face covering and observe social distancing protocols.

The Huntington — San Marino, California

While the library and art museum remain closed until further notice as California retightens its response to the coronavirus, the Huntington’s famed botanical gardens are now open to visitors. Both members and non-members must buy/reserve tickets in advance to gain entry. An abundance of hand-sanitizing stations will be a new fixture on the grounds, and the wearing of face coverings and socially distancing will be strictly enforced. Both visitors and staff must also take and pass a symptom screening and temperature check before gaining entry to the 120-acre horticultural wonderland just east of Los Angeles.

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — North Adams, Massachusetts 

After a lengthy, COVID-19-induced slumber, Mass MoCA reopened on July 11 to guests in possession of advance, timed tickets. Along with hand sanitizer available in “general supply,” the sprawling museum’s admission area has been moved outdoors and social distancing between parties is requested. Windows and doors will also be open whenever possible to improve indoor air circulation. All tours have been suspended until further notice and all performances/live events will take place outdoors.

St. Pete Pier — St. Petersburg, Florida

Offering a lot more than just a very long pier with an overpriced seafood restaurant and gift shop at the end of it, St. Petersburg’s years-in-the-making revamping of the city’s municipal pier, now the public art-studded offshore centerpiece of a 26-are waterfront recreational and entertainment district, is open to the public after being delayed by the coronavirus. (The Pier and district quietly opened last week at reduced capacity.) Mask-wearing and social distancing are strongly encouraged on the pier and environs; in areas, including inside restaurants, where social distancing is difficult, masks/face coverings are required. All amenities and businesses at St. Pete Pier will continue to adhere to CDC guidelines and follow any and all municipal, state, and county orders during the course of the pandemic.

Storm King Art Center — New Windsor, New York

Located just north of New York City at the foot of the Hudson Highlands, Storm King, a 500-acre open-air museum boasting a sizable collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures, is reopening on July 15 with a first-come, first-served advance ticketing system in place. Indoor amenities/galleries remain closed for the time being; bike rentals, food offerings, and tram service are also suspended. And although there’s plenty of room to spread out, face coverings are required when the six-foot social distancing standards are not possible.

Added 7/19/20: 

Clark Art Institute  — Williamstown, Massachusetts 

Although it recently reopened its indoor galleries to visitors with an advanced ticketing system and safety precautions in place, the Clark Art Institute remains one of New England’s best art destinations to spread out and embrace the great outdoors—perfect for those not quite ready to ease back inside. In fact, all 140 acres of the institute’s woodland trail-laced grounds, designed by Reed Hilderbrand, stayed open through the pandemic on a 24/7 basis to those seeking scenic, socially-distant strolls—and welcomed a record number of visitors during those weeks. The museum’s first outdoor exhibition—titled Ground/work it will feature site-specific installations by Kelly Akashi, Nairy Baghramian, Jennie C. Jones, Eva LeWitt, Analia Saban, and Haegue Yang—is slated to open in early September. Select works from the exhibition are already on view, and others will be installed on a rolling basis through the summer.

The Farnsworth House — Plano, Illinois 

After a rough few months including white-knuckle flooding and closure due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Farnsworth House reopened to visitors earlier this month. Nestled along the Fox River, the expansive estate grounds are accessible for the first time ever to those just looking to picnic, stroll, and partake in socially-distant contemplation. Superb exterior views of Mies van der Rohe’s mid-century masterwork can also be enjoyed though this new option. (Advanced ticketing, even if just visiting the grounds and its trails, is required to gain entry to the National Trust for Historic Preservation-managed site.)  The house itself is also open again for a year-long, must-see exhibition titled “Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered” that, along other things, features a series of sub-exhibitions including the temporary, time-traveling refurnishing of the landmark glass dwelling’s interior.

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