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Visiting an Art Museum During the Pandemic

By Lisa Valentine

If you’re like me, as we roll into month seven of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find yourself feeling a bit stir-crazy from staying home so much. It’s tough to find outings that are safe AND free, as many of us pull back on entertainment spending while we wait to see if there will be another round of government stimulus.

My recent visit to the Toledo Museum of Art to check out Yayoi Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water installation fit both categories: I felt very safe during my visit, and admission to the art museum is always free, with the special installation ticket costing only $5.

I recently moved back to Michigan after living in Las Vegas for 14 years, and I had not visited the Toledo Museum of Art since I was in grade school (the museum was a field trip highlight for kids growing up in my small hometown of Morenci, Michigan, about 30 miles from Toledo, Ohio). Looking for free and safe things to do in an area primarily surrounded by farm country is a challenge. Detroit offers plenty but is about a two-hour drive one way.

A peek inside the Toldeo Museum of Art.

Browsing the Toledo Museum’s website, I saw that Yayoi Kusama had an installation there through January 2021, and I knew I had to check it out since I had also toured her installation Infinity Mirrored Room: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity when it was featured at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas.

If you are unfamiliar with Kusama’s work, I encourage you to research her because she’s pretty fascinating. A Japanese contemporary artist who works mostly in sculpture and installation, Kusama is known for her use of brightly colored polka dots and has been open about her mental health and its influence on her work.

Fireflies on the Water was a similar experience to Infinity Mirrors, featuring the illusion of mirrors, lights and water to create a unique experience inside the tiny installation room.

Throughout my time at the Toledo Museum, people were appropriately socially distanced, with plenty of museum volunteers on hand to keep an eye on the amount of people in each exhibit room and to remind everyone to keep their mask over their nose.

To see Fireflies on the Water, you checked in during an assigned time, and each person was admitted into the installation room alone and allotted 60 seconds to experience (and, of course, photograph it). In the installation room, you were strongly encouraged to keep your mask on because so many people had visited the enclosed space (browsing Instagram, I noticed some had decided to disregard this advice and roll the dice to snag a maskless selfie).

If you’re looking for a socially distanced, free activity this fall, I highly recommend checking out an art museum in your area.

A look at another artist’s work at the Toldeo Museum of Art.

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