There was no great whooshing sound, but Friday evening, virtually all of Philadelphia’s major cultural institutions announced they were temporarily closing in an effort to stem the spreading advance of COVID-19.
All museums on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway — the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum (administered by the PMA), the Barnes Foundation, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, and the Franklin Institute — said they were working together and would all close for at least two weeks beginning Saturday.
“Simply put, closing the museum was the right thing to do to ensure the well-being of our staff and visitors," said Timothy Rub, Art Museum director and chief executive, and Gail Harrity, the museum’s president and chief operating officer, in a joint statement. “Given growing concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also a small but important step to take to help achieve a greater good.”
On the other side of town, the major museums in Society Hill and Old City also announced they were shutting down. The National Constitution Center, the Museum of the American Revolution, and the National Museum of American Jewish History all announced late Friday that they would close at least through the end of March.
“As an educational institution, we are closing to the public as a proactive step,” said Jeffrey Rosen, president and chief executive of the Constitution Center. “We will do our part to minimize large public gatherings while maintaining the cleanest and safest environment possible. As a result, in-person visits to our museum and our public programs will be postponed until further notice.”
Rosen said that the center will offer an expanded range of free, online, nonpartisan resources.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia announced that it would be closed Saturday and Sunday, then reopen from Wednesday to Friday. The opening reception for Anna Russel Jones: A Life in Art has been postponed, and all public programming for March has been suspended, museum officials said.
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where the school shut down earlier this week but the museum remained open, officials said the museum would close also, beginning Saturday. No details were available.
A PAFA spokesperson said in an email that PAFA would be closed “until further notice.”
“A planned date for reopening will be announced when it is deemed appropriate and responsible to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Cultural institutions affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania also announced Friday that they were closing.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum, the Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Arthur Ross Gallery announced they would be closed immediately. All public events have been canceled or postponed through April 17, officials said.
Museums were not the only cultural organizations affected by concerns for the spread of COVID-19. Theaters also announced a slew of cancellations.
The Arden Theatre Company on Friday afternoon canceled all performances for Friday through Sunday, including what had been scheduled to be the final days of the theater’s world premiere presentation of Lorene Cary’s My General Tubman.
Also affected there are A Streetcar Named Desire, which began previews on Thursday night, and Teatro del Sol’s presentation of Oedipus el Rey. The theater was contacting ticket holders to discuss options, but patrons could also call the box office at 215-922-1122.
On Thursday, the Kimmel Center announced that shows were being canceled through at least April 11 at its venues, including upcoming Broadway Philadelphia productions of Les Misérables and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Among other theater cancellations and changes:
Bucks County Playhouse postponed all performances of its world premiere musical Other World, which was scheduled to begin Friday.
The Walnut Street Theatre canceled all theater classes for the weekend and said it was waiving exchange fees for both single-ticket holders and subscribers. It reduced the capacity for Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, which began performances on Tuesday, to 700 seats.
At People’s Light in Malvern, remaining performances of Shakespeare in Love and Hold These Truth were canceled.