Slowly but surely, public spaces across the nation are starting to open their doors. While these efforts look different from one place to the next, most state governments have adopted carefully structured strategies that, collectively, aim to safely reintroduce us all to our normal routines. 

On the one hand, these phased re-openings give us a chance to gradually reconnect with the things we’ve been missing since the COVID-19 crisis began. On the other, taking these steady steps back into public living will give us the time we need to adjust to our “new normal.” To be sure, shopping at the mall, eating at a restaurant, and even going to school will look and feel a lot different for the foreseeable future. However, the guidelines and practices that will reshape these experiences will also help us to say safe, healthy, and at ease.

For those of you who were able to join our Live Zoom with Steve event last month, you know that the Norton Center team has spent weeks pouring over resources, communicating with colleagues, and outlining strategies so we will be prepared to re-open when the time does come. So, please rest assured! While your next in-person experience with us might be a bit different than those you’ve had in the past, our commitment to providing incredible programs that are exciting, engaging, and most of all – safe, remains unchanged. Indeed, maintaining the health and safety of our patrons, performers, and staff has always been (and always will be) a top priority.

Without a doubt, we have a lot of things to consider as we navigate new social distancing guidelines, sanitizing protocols, and countless other details. Luckily for us, we can take notes from the successful measures others have taken worldwide, some of which have been quite creative (and, at times, very amusing!). To celebrate all of these efforts, we’ve decided to share a few of our favorite approaches with you, all of which brought smiles to our faces.

Third graders in Hangzhou, China got creative by making and wearing “social distancing hats” upon returning to school. This fun project let these students’ personalities shine (from a safe social distance, of course).
In Japan, a zoo’s restaurant gently reminds visitors to sit at safe distances by filling seats with giant stuffed Capybara. The Izu Shabonten Zoo, which is well known for its capybara presence, picked the perfect mascot for spacing out their diners. Photo via spoon-tamago.com; photos by twitter user @chacha0rca. What’s a capybara?
We’ve all heard of bumper cars, but what about bumper tables? Created by Revolution Event & Design Production, this mobile social-distancing table encourages patrons to mingle over cocktails without the temptation of gathering too closely. (To try these out, you’ll need to visit Fish Tales Bar and Grill, located in Ocean City, MD.) Photo via cnn.com.
In Germany, the signature Burger King crown got a social-distance update. According to a restaurant representative, this new, enormous version of the crown is meant to be a “fun and playful” reminder about new social distance guidelines. Photo via businessinsider.com.
Rather than film in front of an empty studio audience, the popular French game show N’oubliez pas les! (Let’s not Forget the Lyrics!) instead filled the seats with a combination of actual guests, video callers, and (very) expressive balloon sculptures. No one wants to sing to empty chairs! (Image via independent.co.uk)

While we can’t promise that you’ll get to sit next to a capybara when you take in your next Norton Center show, we do want you to know that there is plenty out there to get our creative wheels turning. But truly, the thing that is inspiring us most is that we are eager to see you all soon! In the meantime, we’ll keep working hard for a safe, healthy re-opening.

We want to hear from you!  If you have thoughts, concerns, suggestions, ideas, or questions, please let us know.  We are listening!  Please direct whatever you would like to share to molly.baker@centre.edu and your comments will be shared with our team.

Molly Baker is a graduate of Berea College, where she studied Art History and Asian Studies. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Art History from the University of Kentucky. Before joining the Norton Center for the Arts, Molly held the position of Gallery Manager at TAMARACK: The Best of West Virginia. Later, she served as Assistant Curator/Gallery Manager at the Doris Ulmann Galleries (Berea College) as a sabbatical replacement. Molly is especially dedicated to the study and promotion of the arts and arts-based experiences using creative methods. Specifically, her goal is to bridge arts presentations with inclusive opportunities to learn about context, creators, and cultural significance, pointing to our combined human experiences in order to encourage critical thinking and understanding.