LBMA Downtown space

The LBMA Downtown gallery is ready to reopen with "Space As Presence."

In this, the coronavirus pandemic era, experiencing art in downtown Long Beach has largely meant looking through windows or at a computer screen.

But on Wednesday, Feb. 24, the door back to in-person art experiences will open a crack. That's when the Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA) opens its downtown annex to members.

Then on March 3 the general public will be welcomed as well.

"We have a duty to Long Beach to get back open," Ron Nelson, LBMA executive director, said. "Experiencing art has to be part of living. Downtown is essentially one big gallery, so we can control that. The museum (at 2300 E. Ocean Blvd.) still can't open."

The Museum of Art is owned by the city and operated by the Long Beach Museum of Art Foundation. It has operated for 70 years in the historic 1911 Elizabeth Milbank Anderson House, and a two-story gallery building — the Hartman Pavilion — opened in 2000.

In 2018, the foundation board approved a merger with the downtown Art Exchange, essentially taking over another historic space at 356 E. Third St., built in 1920 as the National Cash Register Bank building. After an extensive renovation, LBMA Downtown opened a 3,000-square-foot gallery in September 2019.

That gallery, along with the rest of the city, shut down in March 2020 with the Stay at Home order prompted by the spread of COVID-19. Nelson said that he, along with most people, expected the shutdown to last no more than a couple of months, and went ahead with installation of a large new show. Called "Space as Presence," it features works from Southern California artists Christine Nguyen, Elyse Pignolet and Fran Siegel.

"We've had it hanging for six months," Nelson said. "It was so difficult; people were wanting to come in. Art is one thing people can talk about with each other. We miss that."

Nelson said the museum will continue to be careful with people's health. Attendance will be by appointment only, with groups of six or less guided by one museum docent. Visits will be limited to 15 minutes.

Only museum members will be allowed in Feb. 24-27, with the public able to visit beginning March 3. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. For reservations, go to www.lbma.org/lbmadowntown/. Admission is free.

One section of the main museum will be opening in about two weeks, Nelson said. The restaurant Claire's at the Museum will open its patio, which offers views of the Queen Mary and Pacific Ocean. The sculpture garden has been redone, Nelson added, and is open for viewing as well.

"We're trying to rebuild our staff," Nelson said. "Claire's isn't just a restaurant, it's just an experience… I just can't wait to hear the sound of voices on the grounds again."

Specific hours and an opening date have yet to be set. Current information can be found at the website, www.lbma.org.

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Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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