Denver museums close ahead of Level Red COVID-19 regulations

Many of Colorado’s major museums are shutting down this week, temporarily but indefinitely, as the 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 deadline to meet Level Red restrictions looms.

The new measures, announced Tuesday by Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, incrementally restrict activities in various Colorado counties, but stop just short of ordering a statewide stay-at-home order. Denver is among the Level Red counties.

Late this week, officials at Denver metro-area institutions such as the Clyfford Still Museum, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver announced they will close by or before the deadline.

RELATED: How Denver’s new Level Red COVID rules affect museums, holiday events, Christmas light displays and outdoor markets

“Our primary concern continues to be the safety and well-being of our staff and visitors,” Still Museum officials wrote in a press statement Thursday. “The closure will last for at least one month.”

Like the Still Museum, MCA Denver will continue offering virtual programming on its website and social media channels. In MCA’s case, they’re automatically extending membership renewals through the fallow period, “so you can enjoy an in-person visit once it’s safe to do so again,” wrote director Nora Burnett Abrams.

“For families at home during the closure, the Museum has created an array of online resources,” Children’s Museum officials wrote in a press statement. That includes weekly Instagram Live programming on various topics with museum educators, and a Facebook group, Museum Fun 101, “full of screen-free activities with common household supplies.”

MCA Denver and the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus currently have no reopening date. The Museum of Outdoor Arts, which closed its indoor galleries this week but left its outdoor displays open, also had no timeline for a full reopening.

After coordinating with city leaders this week, Denver Museum of Nature & Science decided to keep its City Park building open at 25% capacity, as mandated by Level Red rules. But some of its most popular (and lucrative) offerings will be shut down.

“Beginning Saturday (Nov. 21), our IMAX theater, planetarium and restaurant will be closed until further notice,” a spokeswoman wrote via email on Thursday. ” ‘Space Odyssey,’ ‘The Art of the Brick‘ and ‘Dogs! A Science Tail‘ are all still open, and we highly recommend reserving tickets online in advance.”

The museum’s city-approved variance has been extended, she said, similar to variances for outdoor programming at Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Zoo — which still plan to offer ticketed holiday-lighting displays through the end of December.

Some indoor cultural programmers remain in limbo. Ballet Ariel had hoped to present a mix of live and virtual performances of its one-act “Nutcracker Suite” from the stage at the Lone Tree Arts Center starting Dec. 10. The nonprofit arts company had announced the production — and begun selling tickets for it — last week.

“I am waiting for guidance from the Lone Tree Arts Center about whether we can still hold the virtual performances,” said director Ilena Norton.

Also to be decided: the short-term fate of the Denver Art Museum, which is currently selling tickets (or attempting to honor previously purchased tickets) to its popular Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera indoor exhibition.

“We are in the process of seeking clarification on the effects of these new guidelines and the museum’s site-specific variance, which is being evaluated by the state,” said a Denver Art Museum spokeswoman.

This is a developing story.

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