A then-closed Denver Art Museum in downtown Denver on March 21. (Hyoung Chang, Denver Post file)
Denver’s biggest cultural institutions are finding themselves once again under major pandemic restrictions — right as some of them have opened their biggest exhibitions of the fall.
“We’ve all seen a similar resurgence across the country and frankly, across the world,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Tuesday during an 11:30 a.m. press conference, just before previewing the state’s second-most-restrictive coronavirus pandemic shutdown measures. “Despite our best efforts… Denver is not an island. … We’re the largest city of the state, visited every day.”
Retail businesses and cultural institutions will have a cap of 25 people indoors, with 75 people for outdoor events, Hancock said. Gov. Jared Polis confirmed the restrictions at the statewide level during a 12:30 p.m. press conference.
The change goes into effect immediately, and businesses will have until the end of Wednesday to adjust. That includes all museums in Colorado.
City variances that allow outdoor cultural attractions at the Denver Zoo and Denver Botanic Gardens to continue operating will stay in place, as well as variances for the Cherry Creek Mall, Four Mile Park and the National Western Complex.
“As we have done in the past, we are able to make changes quickly across our 80-acre outdoor campus to further protect our guests, staff, and animals,” said Jake Kubie, communications director for Denver Zoo. “At this time we are not making any immediate changes to our operations and will continue to vigilantly implement and enforce the extensive health and safety measures that have been in place since we reopened in June.”
Due to the new restrictions, the new Freyer-Newman Center and gift shop at Denver Botanic Gardens will close, said Erin Bird, communications manager.
“The Gardens will remain open and there are no changes to outdoor access,” she said. “Visitors can continue to access restrooms in the Boettcher Memorial Center and Marnie’s Pavilion. We are continuing our policy that timed entry tickets must be purchased online. There are no ticket transactions on site. At this time, there are no changes to upcoming special events.”
Museums will be hit hard by the restrictions, which limit visitors to marquee, just-opened exhibitions such as “Frida Kahlo, Diego Garcia and Mexican Modernism,” which debuted Oct. 25 at Denver Art Museum, or the ongoing “Art of the Brick” Lego exhibition at Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Institutions such as Museum of Contemporary Art Denver are also selling timed, ticketed admissions to major exhibitions. Representatives of the institutions did not immediately respond to questions as of 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, and admission-restrictions had still not been spelled out by Gov. Polis as of 1:20 p.m.
Denver, Adams County and six other counties have enough new cases that they could be pushed into new stay-at-homes order under the state’s dial framework if they can’t get the virus’ spread under control, The Denver Post has reported.
The Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, which is located in Adams County, last week opened the national touring debut of the Oscar-winning virtual-reality exhibition “Carne y Arena,” which will continue to run as-is, said Bryant Palmer, chief storyteller for the Stanley. The exhibition is expected to draw much of its audience from the Denver metro area.
“Our building’s capacity will be capped at 25%, but (the) Stanley is quite large, so that’s still really workable for us,” he said. “(‘Carne y Arena’) requires just a handful of people, thankfully. That’s one of the reasons we felt relatively secure opening during this time.”
“If we can do things safely, let’s try to keep doing those things we can do,” said Bob McDonald, executive director of the Denver Public Health and Environment department.
This is a developing story.