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The Science Museum of Virginia will Welcome the Curious Back Labor Day Weekend

The Museum is offering timed tickets with pre-reserved entry times and only 12 guests will be admitted every 15 minutes. Which means fewer crowds as you explore the world of science.

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It’s been a rough spring and summer for everyone including our local museums. Shake off some of those blues with a bit of good news, the Science Museum of Virginia is getting ready to re-open. There are a bunch of details to make sure it’s a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone so make sure read their guidelines and new procedures.

After being closed to the public for nearly six months to help limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Science Museum of Virginia is reopening in September.

Wednesday, Sept. 2, Thursday, Sept. 3 and Friday, Sept. 4, the Museum will be open for members only. The Museum will open for all guests beginning Saturday, Sept. 5, and will be open on Labor Day.

Starting September 13, the Museum’s new operating hours will be Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on Mondays for deep cleaning.

While staff are excited to welcome community members back into the building and eager to discuss all things science with curious guests, the Museum has made adjustments to help ensure a safe environment for all who enter the building.

“We have been planning for the reopening since the day we closed with a laser focus on what science is telling us about this virus,” said Chief Wonder Officer Richard Conti. “We are being very deliberate and welcoming back guests at a modest level. Just as science is a process of discovery, we will monitor operations in real time and adjust our strategy as needed along the way.”

The Museum has developed a reopening plan that is guided by recommendations from public health officials and from the best practices of museums throughout the country. The Museum has enhanced cleaning procedures, installed hands-free door handles in the restrooms and adjusted HVAC systems to increase the amount of outside air flow. Shop4Science will remain closed when the Museum reopens.

In addition, the Museum has implemented new operating policies for guests, some of which are listed below. Guests are encouraged to review the full reopening procedures on the Museum’s website at www.smv.org/welcome before their visit.

  • To moderate the flow of guests, the Museum is offering timed tickets with pre-reserved entry times.
  • To allow for proper social distancing, only 12 guests will be admitted every 15 minutes.
  • Tickets are available for pre-purchase by phone and online only to encourage touch-free or low-touch entry to the Museum. Members will need to use the same phone or online system to reserve their entry time.
  • All guests 10 and older are required to wear their own mask while at the Museum. It is recommended that guests ages 3 to 9 also wear a mask.
  • Guests will be directed to follow a pre-determined flow through designated entrance and exit doors, and through open exhibits, which will be “Speed,” “Boost!” and “Giant Insects” during the first few weeks of operation. Some experiences within those exhibits will be closed. Hand sanitizing stations are available at each interactive exhibit.
  • Only one party at a time may ride in the elevators or be in the restroom at the same time.

Previously scheduled to close at the end of August, the popular traveling exhibition “Giant Insects” will now be on display through November 1. The interactive elements have been removed but the six enormous, robotic insects ranging from 40 to 120 times larger than life size and terrariums featuring live bugs are still on view to excite insect lovers of all ages. “Giant Insects” is sponsored locally by Strange’s Florists, Greenhouses, & Garden Centers.

Museum staff have been hard at work for the past several months completing interior enhancements projects. Classrooms, hallways and the well-known “red stairwell” have all been repainted; tables and chairs have been thoroughly scrubbed; lighting has been installed to improve visibility in some areas of the Museum; and the café has been transformed into a flexible-use space for rentals and classes, to name a few.

In addition to the interior enhancements, exterior construction work has started on the new parking deck. Part of the Museum’s lot, the section located between the planetarium and the Children’s Museum, is closed to vehicular traffic. Once completed in early fall 2021, the deck will increase parking capacity and be more user friendly for guests. It is the first step in the Museum’s site master plan of creating a new urban green space.

“While we understand this is a different Museum experience than before the closure, we are implementing new practices for the health and safety of guests and staff,” Conti said. “What hasn’t changed about the Museum is guests encountering thought-provoking science connections and experiencing a sense of discovery, inspiration and awe. We know our community will support the decisions we are making, and for as long as they are necessary. Museums are resilient and are filled with creative, dedicated and resourceful people. As the world evolves, we too will evolve, to ensure that we remain relevant and inspirational.”

The Museum has added a number of virtual programs and enhanced its digital offerings this year. Much of that content will continue after the Museum reopens, such as live astronomy shows on Facebook each Thursday at 2 p.m., digital school demos available for educators to book this fall, virtual Lunch Break Science presentations featuring experts in the field and at-home STEM activity materials. Community members are encouraged to explore all the digital offerings on the Stay Connected page on the Museum’s website at www.smv.org/stay-connected.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.

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Virginia Museum of History & Culture embarks on multi-year, $30 million renovation plans

A new theater, cafe, green space, and interior and exterior renovations are planned as part of the major project, which was expedited because of the pandemic.

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This October, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture (VMHC) will begin a dramatic renovation and expansion project – the most extensive in its long history. Inspired by its vision to better represent and welcome all Virginians and advance its ability to thoughtfully and fully preserve and share the ever-evolving story of Virginia, the museum will invest nearly $30 million in campus and programmatic improvements. In nearly 18 months of construction, the VMHC will be fundamentally reimagined as a more welcoming, guest- and community-centered cultural attraction.

The renewed museum complex of nearly 250,000 square feet will include multiple new exhibitions spaces for long-term and changing exhibitions; a new immersive orientation theater; a new interactive learning space for families; a new research library with a state-of-the-art rare book and manuscript suite, and multiple new education/meeting rooms; a new café, museum store and other amenities; and multiple new and renewed community and event spaces, including a new great hall, a second-floor event terrace, an outdoor event lawn, an expanded parking lot, and an improved VMFA campus connector.

VMHC’s upcoming construction will be a capstone of various expansions and improvements at the museum over the past two decades. It is also a culmination of the VMHC’s focused efforts in recent years to become the state history museum Virginia needs and all Virginians deserve – work that has already resulted in record-setting growth in museum visitation and programmatic activity. Guided by the museum’s ambitious strategic plan, which also called for the museum’s successful rebranding in 2018 as the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, these changes are intended to boldly and meaningfully
reinvent the museum as it looks ahead to its third century of operation and as the United States prepares to commemorate its 250th anniversary.

“As the oldest cultural organization in the Commonwealth and one of the largest and finest history collections in the nation, we take pride in saving and sharing the complex and consequential history of Virginia. We believe in the unparalleled role history plays in creating a strong, healthy, and inspired society. History gives us perspective and empathy – something we all could use more of now and always. History matters,” said VMHC President & CEO Jamie Bosket, “As we – as a nation, state, and community – reckon with our past, it is more important than ever that your state history museum is a community partner that adds great value. The VMHC is excited to embark on this important project on behalf of all Virginians and our shared future.”

Originally planned for 2022, these extensive capital improvements were expedited as part of the VMHC’s strategy to sustain through the current health and financial crisis. Overlapping the planned and subsidized disruption of renovation with the uncontrollable and unplanned challenge of COVID-19 will help the museum endure now and in the future. The VMHC is one of the few major museums in Virginia to survive its public closure.

“Being nimble and moving quickly with the work ahead, we believe we can not only maintain our team and continue to grow our tremendous portfolio of digital history programming, one of the most robust of any like museum, but we will also be able to re-emerge from these challenging times with strength and stability,” said Bosket. A recent national survey of the American Alliance of Museums suggested that as many as one in three American museums may be forced to shutter because of the impacts of COVID-19.

“We also believe that making this investment now is one way that we can do our part to contribute to our collective recovery – providing a new project that will engage dozens of local and regional businesses, and even allow for modest job creation at the museum,” commented Bosket.

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Abstract art installation “Procession” adds colorful new touch to VMFA’s expansive atrium

Visitors to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will notice a large, colorful painting along the elevation of the museum’s Atrium north wall. The expansive new mural, Procession, is the work of Nigerian-born American artist Odili Donald Odita.

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Visitors to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will notice a large, colorful painting along the elevation of the museum’s Atrium north wall. The expansive new mural, Procession, is the work of Nigerian-born American artist Odili Donald Odita. The work, completed on Sept. 20, 2020, can now be viewed in its entirety.

Procession was three years in the making. “The space called out to me when I came to VMFA in 2017,” said Valerie Cassel Oliver, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “I remember walking through the Cochrane Atrium with Stephen Bonadies, VMFA’s Senior Deputy Director for Conservation and Collections, who as a means of introduction offered to walk the building and grounds with me. I immediately thought that the Atrium’s large white wall was ripe for a work of art. I imagined a site-specific work that would activate the Atrium’s light-filled architecture, echoing the Sol LeWitt wall drawing in our Marble Hall. And I immediately thought of Odita’s abstract paintings and installations.” Cassel Oliver previously worked with the artist, curating an exhibition of his work while at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

In October 2018, Odita visited VMFA to view the space and collection. That visit inspired the work’s design—a captivating composition of color and lines. Two months later, the artist presented a study for the mural and in spring 2019, the museum’s Board of Trustees approved its commission. Over the last six weeks from August and into September five artists from the Odita studio drew and then painted Procession, a dynamic expanse of colorful lines, complex patterns, and striations that bend and illuminate the architecture of the space. Odita’s mural heralds the traditions of the Gee’s Bend quilts and African textiles as well as mid-20th century paintings that highlight the deeply resonate practices that have persisted within the African and African Diasporic cultures. And while the work does not shy away from the sociopolitical landscape of the moment, it squarely sets its ideals upon the power of creative expression within an ever-evolving society.

“Odita’s Procession transforms the Atrium,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “This vibrant mural invites viewers to contemplate and have timely, crucial conversations about racial identity and equity, as well as the power of abstract art.”

Odita is slated to return to VMFA to discuss his work next spring. Details about this event as well as a time-lapse video of the six-week installation of Procession will be made available on VMFA’s website, www.VMFA.museum, in the coming weeks.

Odili Donald Odita was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1966. Fleeing the Biafran War, he came with his family to live in the United States the following year. After earning his BFA and MFA at Ohio State University and Bennington College, respectively, he worked as a critic, editor, and writer for art publications and Yale University. He taught at the University of South Florida and Florida State University before taking his current position as associate professor of painting at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

Odita has created site-specific temporary and permanent installations for the United States Mission at the United Nations (NY), the George C. Young Federal Building Courthouse (Orlando, FL), the Birmingham Museum of Art (AL), and the city of Philadelphia (PA), among other locations across the country. His work is also found in the collections of several institutions including the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (NC), the Savannah College of Art and Design (GA), and the New Orleans Museum of Art (LA).

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The Valentine’s popular Controversy/History series returns to address 2020’s impact

The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

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The Valentine’s popular conversation series will return virtually on Tuesday, October 6, co-hosted by Valentine Director Bill Martin and Coffee with Strangers host Kelli Lemon. The free, five-event series will focus on the evolving impacts of 2020, a year full of unexpected challenges and uncomfortable conversations, all amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic and massive social change.

“The Richmond community that entered 2020 is not the same community we find ourselves a part of today,” Valentine Director Martin said. “2020 has truly been a year of historic change, and it only makes sense to use our conversation series Controversy/History to examine those changes, how they have impacted the people of the Richmond Region and what we can do as a community to move forward together.”

Each virtual event will include an exciting lineup of guest speakers discussing contemporary issues and how 2020 has either upended or reinforced Richmond’s history, followed by questions from the audience and action steps for those inspired to get involved.

Here is a complete list of dates and topics:

October 6, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Voting

November 3, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Mental Health

December 1, 2020, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2020 and Business

January 5, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Education

February 2, 2021, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
2021 and Activism

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