Cultural Center welcomes visitors back with ongoing exhibits

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Even in the time of pandemic, art finds a way.

After a nearly four-month closure in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach reopened to the public July 6. Picking up where it left off when the doors were shut in March, the center continues to exhibit the works of Susanne Schuenke, a celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday and more.

“The arts are vital to a vibrant community,” said Executive Director Donna Guzzo. “If you start taking all of that out, what do you have?”

In fact, the shutdown forced artists to seek new ways to connect with the public.

Master artist Ellen Diamond has been offering her class online. Meanwhile, several artists responded to the center’s “Put Art In Our Yard” initiative, exhibiting their work in the courtyard where the public can stop by and safely view it. A virtual spring exhibition has been made available on the center’s website.

And the center’s quilters group has created hundreds of stylish masks in all sizes, which are available for a donation in the facility’s Marketplace.

But state mandates and social distancing norms have had an impact.

“Our main revenue here at the center is programming — offering classes,” said Guzzo. “And there have been no classes since March 13.”

Returning visitors will find some changes at the center to help curb potential exposure to the virus.

When visitors enter, a staff member will take their temperatures, ask them questions related to possible exposure and give them hand sanitizer to use. In fact, hand-sanitizer dispensers have been installed throughout the building.

Throughout the day, volunteers constantly sanitize surfaces that may have been touched by members of the public.

Precautions have also been instituted for the center’s summer camps. Children are given frequent breaks to wash their hands and must wear masks. The campers know this and are good about maintaining social distancing, said Guzzo.

“Loving Beethoven,” an interactive installation celebrating the life and work of the renowned composer, was originally scheduled to close in May. But it has been extended through Sept. 25.

The show, presented in partnership with the Interactive Music Museum in Malaga, Spain, features enormous spheres through which visitors can feel the vibrations of Beethoven’s music. Other stations grant visitors additional means to learn about music.

“Stories with a Brush: Inside the Mind of a Painter,” featuring Schuenke’s unique paintings — some of which are nine feet tall — will be displayed for seven weeks.

“It’s just amazing, amazing work,” said Guzzo, “but unfortunately, because of COVID, I can’t do an opening night.”

Opening night, a staple of art exhibits, would have meant a lot of people standing within close proximity to one another.

Visitors to the center will also see the work of young patients at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

The center is currently open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Guzzo said the best days to visit are Tuesday through Thursday.

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