Local museums shift focus back to online offerings after new closure order

Local museums had barely reopened after standing dark for nearly five months when Monday’s state closure order shut them down again.

“After a week of being open to the public, we are closing our indoor galleries,” said Katie Azanza, marketing and visitor experience manager for the Museum of Sonoma County in downtown Santa Rosa. “As outdoor museums are allowed to operate, we will have our sculpture garden open for limited hours.”

Hours at the open-air space next to the museum are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Visitors must practice social distancing and wear masks. Established in 2011, the garden features work by a dozen California artists. Admission is free.

The latest closure orders have pushed local museums to return to online programs, some of which they developed months ago in response to the pandemic.

The Museum of Sonoma County’s history exhibition, “From Suffrage to #MeToo: Groundbreaking Women in Sonoma County,” is available online, as is a virtual tour of its art exhibit “Landscape: Awe to Activism,” hosted by the museum’s director, Jeff Nathanson.

Like other museums in the county, the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa has been closed to the public since mid-March in response to state and county orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

It reopened just last week, on July 8, with a new exhibit assembled from its vast archive of Schulz’s 50 years of “Peanuts” comic strips, titled “Lucy! Fussbudget to Feminist.” That show is interrupted for now.

“We look forward to reopening again as soon as county and state officials give us clearance to do so,” said Gina Huntsinger, the museum’s executive director.

In the meantime, the Schulz museum isn’t idle. It continues to offer in-person summer camps for children in grades 1–6 through Aug. 14 in the museum’s new education classrooms, with COVID-19 safety guidelines in place.

This summer, the museum also offers new online art and cartooning classes for kids and teens, including cartooning sessions with the museum’s longtime visiting cartoonist, Joe Wos.

“We continue to add to our ’Schulz Museum at Home’ webpage where fans of all ages can access a variety of free activities to enjoy from home,” said Stephanie King, marketing director at the museum.

All public programs have temporarily moved online, including “How to Draw Snoopy” on Aug. 10, priced at $15; a new Peanuts live drawing series led by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates staff artists and “Exploring Intersectional Identities Through Queer Comics,” a free panel discussion July 27 with cartoonists Maia Kobabe, Ajuan Mance and Bishakh Som.

In downtown Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art reopened just two weeks ago, on July 1, with a new exhibit, "California Rocks! Photographers Who Made the Scene, 1960-1980,” featuring photos from more than 20 different photographers of Janis Joplin, Tom Petty and other rock music icons.

But from the moment it opened, the museum was ready to close again when the state orders changed. They did that Monday.

For now, would-be visitors will have to go online to see the exhibition. A seven-minute exhibition video is posted online at at the museum’s website, which also offers items from the exhibition catalog for sale through the museum store. The ARTS@Home section on the website is being updated with new lessons, said museum publicist Allison Coats.

For updates and details, check for the Charles M. Schulz Museum, for the Museum of Sonoma County and for the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at On Twitter @danarts.

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