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The last day the Appleton Museum of Art was open was March 15.
The world-class facility had just launched its anticipated “Flamenco: From Spain to the US” exhibit, which included reproductions of costume designs of Pablo Picasso.
Flamenco, which dates back to Spain more than 500 years ago, is a colorful and brazen form of music and dance. As it turned out, March 15 would be, as Don McLean sang in his eternal hit “American Pie,” the day that that the music (exhibit) died.
It was the last day because the COVID-19 pandemic came to town.
Since that day in March, Marion residents have seen nearly 10,000 COVID-19 cases and almost 300 deaths due to the coronavirus. Flash forward nearly seven months and Marion’s daily number of cases and seven-day positivity rate have greatly improved.
And now museum officials say it’s time to open the doors again.
The Appleton reopens on Oct. 15. It will be open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. until further notice.
Local resident Alex Everts didn’t realize he would miss the Appleton until it was gone.
“Very glad to hear it is reopening; have never gotten to take my son yet and have wanted to lately,” Everts wrote in a Star-Banner Facebook post that requested comments for this story.
Museum Director Jason Steuber said in a Thursday telephone interview that employees are scurrying around the facility, finishing final details.
The facility underwent a makeover, including fresh paint, during the past seven months. Displays have been reimagined and there is quite a buzz that one of Marion County’s jewels is finally coming back online.
The entire museum received a deep cleaning while workers completed indoor and outdoor maintenance projects. There will be new safety protocols to ensure that visitors have a safe and enjoyable experience.
Additionally, the galleries have been updated and reinstalled with Appleton treasures, promoting natural social distancing while presenting new, never seen-before works alongside visitor favorites, Steuber noted.
“Opening safely to all of our community members is finally within sight,” Steuber said in a press release. “The Appleton is an exceptional and dynamic place to enjoy 5,000 years of art face to face. Your Appleton staff welcomes you back to enjoy the shows.”
The Appleton is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction achieved by just 3 percent of the nation’s 33,000 museums. The museum was founded in 1982 thanks to a gift from Arthur I. Appleton.
After the City of Ocala donated the 44-acre site for the museum, construction began in 1984. The museum opened three years later and now boasts 16,000 artifacts, including European, American, Asian, African, contemporary and pre-Columbian art.
In 2001, the Appleton featured artwork of Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet, creating a national buzz that helped further cement the Appleton as a world-class museum. The museum is operated by the College of Central Florida.
Here are the special exhibitions, according to an Appleton press release, that kick off the fall schedule on Oct. 15:
• “The Spaces Between:” Mixed-media artist Christian Duran’s “theatrical landscapes” that, while giving a nod to historic botanical illustrations, break out of the confines of representational rendering to create a way of looking at nature in abstract.
• “The Art of Adventure:” Serigraphs by Clayton Pond. Shared from the permanent collection for the first time, these vibrant prints explore the culture and vocabulary of leisure sports.
• “Mid-Century Tourism on the Silver River:” Bruce Mozert’s photo exhibition highlighting both Silver Springs and Paradise Park, as well as other ephemera, that highlight Mozert’s innovation, creativity and significance to the history of Marion County tourism.
“Masks are required for all visitors and social distancing procedures will be in place,” according to the release. “Visitor occupancy of the museum will also be monitored.”
The Museum Store will be open for holiday shopping, officials said. The Artspace and classrooms will remain closed until further notice.
Lois Brauckmuller, CF spokeswoman, said online content will continue to be updated and made available to the public. That includes: “The Artist’s Outlook” online lecture series; “Teaching Tuesdays” instructional art project video series for children; “Art Minutes” video series highlighting works from the permanent collection; and the free Appleton mobile app.
The outdoor Sculpture Walk is open for a fall stroll. For more information, call 291-4455 or visit AppletonMuseum.org.
CF also has announced that the Webber Center Gallery, located on the school’s College Road campus, will reopen Oct. 12.
That gallery will feature “Pre-Conception,” a solo exhibition of sculptures by Russell Bellamy. The exhibition will run through Nov. 5.
Bellamy’s artwork utilizes industrial materials and processes to comment on labor, sociological/psychological structures and behavioral expectations.
“He is influenced by the proximity of urban and rural landscapes and the mutually beneficial structures and aesthetics that create the areas and spaces in between,” a press release states.
The exhibition will showcase floor-based interactive sculptures alongside relief wall-based sculptures.
The Webber Gallery is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Masks will be required. Visit www.CF.edu/Webber.
Joe Callahan can be reached at 867-4113 or at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews