• Jenny DeHuff

Philly Art and Culture Institutions Begin to Reopen Starting Today


The city has axed their operating budgets, but Philadelphia art and culture institutions are beginning to reopen despite the Covid-19 pandemic.


Franklin Square – one of William Penn’s five original open-space parks – reopened today and the park’s fountain show and carousel resumed at noon. Major cultural fixtures like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation and The Franklin Institute will also welcome members of the public in the coming weeks.

Visitors will be expected to wear masks, the number of guests will be limited, and social-distancing measures will be put in place to ensure everyone’s safety. This is all part of the slow climb towards Philly reaching the green phase of reopening. Others include:

– The Academy of Natural Sciences

– The Barnes Foundation

– Eastern State Penitentiary

– The Franklin Institute

– Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA)

– Philadelphia Museum of Art

– Rodin Museum

Each establishment is determining its own opening date based on internal factors. The Franklin Institute opens Wednesday, followed by the Barnes Foundation on July 25 and so on. Other institutions will open later in the summer and into the fall as they follow guidance from the city and state. Dates may be subject to change. Check each destination’s website for schedules.

Like most outdoor areas these days, all of these Philly fav places will be adhering to CDC guidelines and state and city protocols, which include masks or face coverings for visitors and staff, social-distancing and limited building capacity requirements. Things will look quite different than they used to: All public spaces will have plexiglass partitions that separate you from the people at admission. Hand sanitizer stations will be commonplace. Workers will be wiping down public surfaces throughout the day, and for most institutions, advanced-reservations will be asked of you – or strongly encouraged – to gauge the number of people expected for that day and facilitate contactless transactions.

Philadelphia City Council recently approved a budget that reduced citywide arts funding to more than $5 million, a cut of 40 percent. Asked how this will effect arts and cultural institutions across the city, Lisa Miller, the Academy of Natural Sciences CFO said:

“The Academy is the oldest natural history museum in the nation and was founded in 1812. It has weathered many a budget challenge in its long, distinguished history as a leading nonprofit in Philadelphia. The unprecedented challenge of Covid-19 adds another layer to any institution’s bottom line.”

Today through July 31, the Franklin Square Fountain will return with daily performances and SquareBurger is open, as it is an outdoor dining space. More info on daily operations can be found here.

Amy Needle is President & CEO of Historic Philadelphia, Inc. (HPI), which oversees Franklin Square, the Betsy Ross House and several other historic areas of the city.

Asked what the budget cuts mean for long-term preservation of HPI, she said:

“Historic Philadelphia, Inc. estimates it lost at least $1.5 million over the last few months. HPI serves people – visiting the Betsy Ross house, playing in Franklin Square, hearing stories at the Once Upon A Nation storytelling benches or on tours or field trips – and without people, the organization struggles.

“HPI furloughed the entire staff for four months. Only now, some staff are beginning to come back. HPI made significant cuts to its operating budget and the season will look very different in the near future and potentially moving ahead. Free programs that residents have enjoyed in the past, like movie nights or pumpkin patches, have been eliminated both for financial reasons and for health and safety reasons.”

Needle said that in the past, a public-private partnership fundraising effort helped pay for much that kept the wheels in motion at Franklin Square. One fundraiser is slated for mid-September, but she and fellow organizers are hopeful more donors will want to step up and show support.

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