Two months late, but with a fervor reinforced by the monetary support of a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) grant, Opus 40 staff has devised a careful, virus-conscious plan to open its site to visitors. A hand-built labyrinth that sprawls over six acres of stone paths, pedestals, ramps and platforms, Opus 40 is an ideal location for adherence to social-distancing measures. With no more than 30 visitors at a time, all of whom must register online to avoid the interaction that in-person ticket purchasing necessitates, the sculpture park at 50 Fite Road in Saugerties will reopen to visitors on Thursday, May 21. This past weekend, the devised social-distancing plan was given a trial run.
“We’re all looking for places to get out in nature that aren’t overcrowded,” said Opus 40 executive director Caroline Crumpacker. “I think a place with a capacity to establish how many people are onsite [like Opus 40] is welcoming. There are other outdoor sites that aren’t staffed that are just jammed — it’s not safe.”
Crumpacker had been uncertain about the reopening date, but the test last week reassured her, “We may be able to expand the number of people on our site at [a later] time — people were nowhere near each other, they were able to stay 50 feet apart — and there was [only] one group I had to nag a little bit …. It was the first time I’ve spoken to people other than my family, albeit through a mask from ten feet away, for a long time. It was moving to see people. I felt tremendously glad to open the site.”
The PPP grant facilitated site maintenance, including trail clearing, lawn mowing and stone masonry to maintain the site, which was finished over 40 years ago. Employee pay that has been jeopardized by two months out of service has been restored. The outlook for the future of Opus 40 in this “new normal” is positive. Krumpacker predicts that the site’s capacity will be increased, given the sprawling area of the site.
She envisions possibilities for the site to assist struggling local businesses. “We are talking with local businesses about ways to safely, appropriately work with them onsite in a way that’s safe and doable,” said Crumpacker “We won’t be going to restaurants or bars any time, but it will feel much better for everybody if the nonprofits and businesses can find ways to work together. Opus 40 has the space, how can we make use of it? The businesses can’t use their spaces, they’re too small and inside. How can we work together? People could bring food onsite and have a beautiful sunset picnic, everybody’s happy.”
The quarantine imposed by the coronavirus, she said, assisted an unprecedented increase in the sculpture park’s online presence.Some of the offerings available via Opus-Online, a section of the Opus 40 website, include poetry readings from Italy, a class on methods of fermentation, guitarists playing from quarantines in India, and puppetry and yoga instruction filmed on site. The changes have also pushed volunteers and employees at Opus 40 to consider new methods and technologies to handle visitors — for example, to prevent visitors from touching, an onsite map, an app or online map is being devised for visitors to access.
Tickets for Opus 40 can be purchased for $11; seniors and students can buy tickets for $8 and essential workers can access the space for free. Those who plan to visit the site frequently can purchase a season-long membership for $50. Students and senior citizens can purchase memberships for $35. Slots for visitation can be purchased for either 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.
Crumpacker said that another time slot may be added depending on the success of social-distancing measures.