Since closing in March, many of Houston’s cultural organizations and institutions have continued to wait and see while planning for multiple reopening contingencies. Gov. Greg Abbott’s Report to Open Texas announcement this week allows museums — like restaurants — to open following major safety guidelines and with a 25-percent capacity regulation. Therefore, some of those organizations have gone from preparing to implementing.
With announcements beginning to trickle in, we take a look at which art and cultural centers will be reopening in May and beyond.
Houston Museum of Natural Science
The first to set a launch date, the family favorite will open May 18, strictly following the governor’s 25-percent capacity rule. The HMNS has also presented to the public such a detailed list of measures they will set — before and with reopening — that it might become a template for other museums in the district.
In a statement from Joel A. Bartsch, the HMNS president and CEO, explained the Houston institution has been preparing for reopening since they closed on March 17.
“Museums are essential to our culture and we are committed to continuing to serve our mission of providing a world class museum experience for the Houston community,” stated Bartsch. “The Museum will continue to expand digital engagement opportunities for those who may not yet feel comfortable returning. At the same time, our staff will continue working non-stop to develop additional protocols and provide additional support and supplies as needed for those who do.”
Some of those protocols include requiring face masks for the visiting public, creating separate entrances and exits, utilizing newly installed plexi-glass screens at visitor, information, and sales desks, and monitoring public spaces to facilitate social distancing.
Meanwhile, face masks and gloves will be provided for all staff who engage with the public, workstations will be spaced to allow for social distancing, and support staff will continue to work from home. The temperature of all employees will also be measured before entering the museum.
Holocaust Museum Houston
HMH will reopen to the public May 26 when the 50-percent capacity guideline is tentatively set to go into practice. The protocols in place will require staff and guests to wear a face mask upon entry and to practice social distancing. If guests do not have a mask, the museum will provide them. According to Dr. Kelly J. Zúñiga, HMH CEO, the museum undergo a deep cleaning and sanitation process of the entire building before reopening.
“This involves spraying the entire facility with a long lasting anti-viral spray that will last at least 30 days,” explains Zúñiga. “HMH will implement a repetitive third-party assessment and treatment process every 30 days to make sure that the non-infectious integrity of the facility is being maintained, and implement an ongoing daily sanitation and cleaning process for the entire facility through our contracted cleaning company.”
Keeping with the governor’s orders for all libraries and museums, interactive stations within exhibitions will be closed.
Around the Museum District
Several of the other Houston museums are still assessing the situation and their own capacity to reopen, with many still in the planning stages.
At the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, a Return to Work Task Force continues to determine how best to reopen for their 650 staff members and their visitors.
"We will be coordinating with our sister institutions in the Houston Museum District and with the mayor’s office. We look forward to bringing some staff back into the buildings and welcoming the public, but we are evaluating all of our supplies, including masks and gloves, and assessing our infrastructure to ensure that we are ready to operate the museum’s offices and public areas safely and under social distancing," was the MFAH's official statement today. They plan to announce a reopening date "as soon as all those aspects are in view."
The Menil Collection put out a brief but similar statement on social media: "The Menil Collection is carefully planning for its reopening later this summer. The safety and well-being of the museum’s visitors, staff, and community continues to be our top priority."
While the Texas plan gives the green light for movie theaters to reopen at 25-percent capacity, and not too many have jumped to be the first, live staged theaters are still a question, with many local companies mulling social distancing and health options for audiences, performing artists, and crew.
Many Houston companies canceled their summer shows altogether or moved late spring and summer shows to their next season. In one case, the Alley Theatre rescheduled their annual Summer Chills production, which was to be Clue this year, as the first show of their 2020-21 season, beginning in mid-September.
For those wondering about another summer staple, the always wild and new Tamarie Cooper show, Catastrophic Theatre posted to social media that they will only reopen when they believe it safe to do so. (The company has put together a video of their favorite moments from past shows calling it Tamarie's Mixtape.)
A few companies do still have summer shows on their calendar, including Stages. Lise Bohn, Stages development and communications director, tells CultureMap the company continues to monitor guidance from local and state officials to determine when they can safely resume planned performances. "We'll share an interim update next week regarding our plans for May and June," says Bohn.
And as for the big, revolutionary question: Tickets for the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts stop of the Hamilton tour went on sale in April — and yes, those dates tour dates still stand as June 30-August 9. Meanwhile, the Hobby Center administrative and box office staff are working remotely at least until May 15. Events taking place at Hobby through the middle of May have either been postponed or canceled.