Opening Doors

Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director, welcomes visitors back to the museum and discusses the healing power of art

 Stephanie Stebich, SAAM's Margaret and Terry Stent Direction in the museum's Lincoln Gallery. Photo by Gene Young. 
Stephanie Stebich
The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery
September 18, 2020
A photograph of individuals inside an art museum with masks on.

Masked visitors enjoying works of art in SAAM's modern and contemporary art galleries. Photo by Albert Ting.

Dear Friends: 

I’m delighted to let you know that today is the day that the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and our Renwick Gallery, have reopened to the public. We join our sister institutions, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Portrait Gallery, in welcoming you back.

If you choose to visit us in person, as you might expect, some aspects of your experience will be different. With your and our staff's safety as our number one concern, there are new policies in place such as mask requirements and social distancing to make sure every visitor is as safe and comfortable as possible. Timed-entry passes will be required to visit SAAM’s main building but not the Renwick Gallery. Please check our website to learn what’s on view, what may have changed, and how to plan a safe visit.

I know that many of you, like me, look to art not just for the pleasure it provides, but also for the solace and the grace it often provides. We look to art for so many reasons: sometimes it is to find ourselves and at other times it is to lose ourselves in something greater.

In this moment in time, I think we could all use personal encounters with works of art, as our nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, economic upheaval, and systemic racism. Artists don’t wish away tough topics; they dive straight in. I often think of artists as creative first responders who interpret the world we live in and respond with artworks that resonate. I wonder what they are creating in their studios these days and how their practice will inform galleries and museums and public spaces for generations?

It is also known that art is good for the mind, body, and soul. Contemplative, mindful moments in front of an artwork can reduce stress and mental fatigue. And who, during the last six months, has not had a bit of stress in their lives? Art really can do wonders for us. 

During the past few months we’ve come to see the importance of our digital holdings and offerings. These will continue! We are presenting an online lecture series in honor of the exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture that includes talks by a diverse array of historians, scientists, and artists. Explore the exhibition in person in our newly named Cunniffe Galleries—and come face to face with a giant mastodon skeleton—then learn more about the naturalist and explorer and his times (and ours) online.

Now that we’re open for visitors, we’ll be following the strictest health guidelines to ensure that everyone has not only an eye-opening experience, but a safe one as well.

Art opens doors. We’re grateful to be reopening ours and welcoming you back.

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