October 27, 2021

A cultural reawakening

Plans are mixed for the reopening of local institutions

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Jaroslava Prihodova, director of SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Fine Arts Gallery, handles an exhibit piece Tuesday in the gallery. Greater Cortland area cultural institutions like the gallery are mixed in their plans to reopen.

Expect changes for how SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery will operate and what will be shown when it opens Aug. 31, but the worries about content should be put to rest as cultural institutions reopen, said Jaroslava Prihodova, the gallery’s director.

“It will remain the high quality of programming it has been in the past,” she said.

The gallery and other cultural institutions in the greater Cortland are in different stages of reopening following the news that museums and other low-risk cultural entertainment venues can reopen in New York City on Monday following orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week that they can reopen at 25% capacity.

The Cortland Repertory Theatre remains largely closed, but plans outdoor concerts. The Central New York Living History Center in Cortlandville has reopened to groups of 10 to 25 people by appointment, according to its website, but details were unavailable.

The Homer Center for the Arts remains closed, for now, but it continues to offer programming, including parking lot concerts Sept. 10, 17 and 24. Comedian Colin Quinn is scheduled to perform Oct. 17.

The 1890 House has reopened, but has been looking for new ways to recoup losses in donations and memberships, Executive Director David Lane said.

“We needed income on a regular basis,” he said on the museum’s closure from March to July.

The museum received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but that funding eventually ran out and the job of the museum’s associate director, Rosalie Hopko, had to be cut to save money.

In addition to reopening for tours, Lane said he is looking to lease some of the museum’s parking spots for SUNY Cortland students to help make up for the lost money.

“I’m just trying to be creative with what I can do,” he said.

One museum in the city — the Dowd Gallery at SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Fine Arts Center — has been closed since the campus shut down in March, but will reopen Aug. 31 for the fall semester, Prihodova said.

Visitors have been able to view exhibits only as part of a tour prior to Aug. 31 through appointments which required mask wearing and social distancing, Prihodova said. Groups were also limited to five people.

“It worked out fine,” she said.

For the fall semester, the gallery will be open to about 20 people at a time, with masks and distancing. Additionally, exhibitions from the time being will be from local artists, including SUNY professors, because of the difficult availability of art.

“We are kind of improvising right now but that’s OK because we have no idea how long we are going to stay open for students,” she said noting the potential for the college to close to students, should virus cases surge.

Despite changes in planning, “It will remain the high quality of programming it has been in the past,” Pirhodova said.

While the governor’s orders have applied to cultural institutions where in-person gathering can be limited, that’s not the case for theaters, said Ker-by Thompson, the producing artistic director of the Cortland Repertory Theatre.

The theater will remain closed through the fall, he said. When it can reopen, the occupancy percentage will help dictate what shows it produces.

In the meantime, the theater will be looking to host other kinds of events.

“We’re optimistic and look to other ways” of using the building, Thompson said, including art shows similar to one it recently hosted.

The theater will host an outdoor concert Sept. 12 at Dwyer Park in Preble with Todd Meredith and the Rave-Ons, a Buddy Holly tribute band, which has performed at the theater before.

“It felt right for him to do our first outdoor concert,” Thompson said.