Fort Worth museums, libraries will remain closed despite Abbott’s relaxed order

April 28,2020

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Luke Ranker here

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave museums and libraries the OK to reopen at limited capacity starting Friday, but many Fort Worth museums, including cornerstones of the city’s Cultural District, say they’re not ready to welcome visitors.

The Fort Worth Public Library will also not reopen its 15 branches.

Abbott Monday said he would allow the statewide stay-at-home order to expire Thursday and restaurants, theaters and stores could reopen at 25% occupancy. Museums and libraries could do the same, he said, with the possibility of expanding capacity to 50% if cases of the novel coronavirus don’t radically increase.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she would allow the city order to expire as well, and follow the governor’s order. In an email, she said that once more was known about the governor’s plan the city would develop protocols specific to Fort Worth.

But major Fort Worth museums aren’t comfortable opening immediately.

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Community Arts Center, all in the Cultural District, will not reopen, representatives said. The Sid Richardson Museum in downtown also will likely not reopen Friday. Other museums did not immediately return calls or emails.

Officials at the Modern were reviewing the governor’s order and did not have plans to reopen Friday, said marketing manager Dustin Van Orne.

Up the street at the Amon Carter, spokeswoman Kimberly Daniell said it would “take some time” to implement the proper health procedures to protect staff and visitors from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“We look forward to welcoming audiences back to the museum at a later date, and we will announce our plans to reopen as soon as we know we are able to do so safely,” she said.

In a statement, the Kimbell said a date to reopen had not been set.

At the Arts Center, public engagement manager Elena Greer said a plan was in place to reopen with social distancing, but the Arts Council of Fort Worth must first meet with a city task force on reopening the economy to suss out the details. That meeting was planned for Tuesday.

In a statement, the Fort Worth Public Library said there is no plan to reopen its 15 branches, but staff were working with city leadership to begin a curbside system for books and other material.

“We will proceed with caution while delivering the best service possible,” the statement read.

Smaller museums are also choosing to remain closed for the time being.

Renee Green, the administrative assistant at the Sid Richardson Museum, said the museum staff were beginning to discuss how to reopen, but no plan was in place yet. Director Scott Winterrowd said in an email he wished to hear from local authorities before developing a plan to reopen the American Art museum.

The American Airlines CR Smith Museum would provide updates to patrons through the museum’s email list, spokesman Greg Roberston said.

Fort Worth Aviation Museum director Brittany Spraggins said she hoped the museum would reopen later in May, but didn’t provide a specific date.

The Stockyards Museum has not set a date for reopening, said North Fort Worth Historical Society president Marty Humphrey. Museum staff are worried about a resurgence of the coronavirus and would like to take more time to assess the situation and explore safeguards.

“We feel that the health and safety of our mostly retired and older museum volunteers is our upmost responsibility and we do not want to put them at risk by moving ahead too quickly and without first monitoring the rates of new COVID-19 cases once businesses begin to reopen this weekend,” Humphrey wrote in an email.