NFL draft hooha and road closures pinching the Art Museum

For now, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been obliterated from view from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway by the massive NFL draft amphitheater towering over the museum steps.

Not to worry. The NFL has provided a solution to that minor problem. The museum façade has been reproduced on the rear wall of the stage.

But museum officials say the NFL draft buildout, which went on for weeks to prepare for the event that began Thursday, has had a significant impact on attendance.

Other institutions farther down the Parkway, clustered around Logan Square, say the draft and its preparations have had some or no impact so far.  But the Art Museum, which generated about $1 billion in local economic activity over the last five years, has been hit hard. 

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“We hope visitors to the Parkway recognize that the museum is open and accessible throughout the event,” Gail Harrity, museum president and chief operating officer, said Thursday.

“What we’ve seen to date is that visitation has dropped off, in part because of real barriers and road closures, and in part because of perceived barriers such as traffic,” Harrity said.

Visitors can access the museum via the Spring Garden bridge and Kelly Drive, she said, and city and transit officials have assured the museum it will be accessible throughout the NFL event.

The front entrance to the Rodin Museum, a small building dwarfed by NFL-related shopping and visitor tents rising like vinyl megaliths from Eakins Oval, is completely blocked off. Access to the Rodin is possible only through the rear and from its 22nd Street side.

Other Parkway institutions, which look out on a landscape resembling a corporate tent city, say they are open and reasonably accessible, although some officials question the point of using the unique Parkway landscape for an event that completely overwhelms and privatizes that landscape.

Thom Collins, head of the Barnes Foundation, had a different take. 

"This has all been well communicated and our site has been so well organized, it's all going very, very well," Collins said. He said the museum, between 20th and 21st Streets, anticipates no service interruption.

"We're just far enough away from the active set-up," he said. "People are finding their way here. We have a robust turnout for a Thursday. The only difference is, we have people wearing football jerseys. That's not what you usually see at the Barnes."

Active obstructions begin at 21st. 

The Free Library, on Logan Square, is fine, said Sandra Horrocks, a library vice president.

“We’re open,” she said. “Traffic is hideous, but 20th Street is still open.” She said most library patrons arrive by foot or public transportation and had not been significantly affected by the NFL hooha so far.

Larry Dubinski, head of the Franklin Institute, across Logan Square from the library, said officials there have been assisted by some good luck and proactive planning. 

"We have worked hard to ensure the best for the Franklin Institute, candidly," he said. "Getting here is a challenge, but we're open." 

The museum's big show, "Jurassic World," closed Sunday, avoiding a major draft-related impact on attendance, he said. 

This week normally would be focused on school groups, he said, but all schools involved were contacted weeks ago and given the option of moving their visits to a different week. 

"We moved a bunch of them, taking a proactive approach," he said. "We didn't lose any. ... We've been able to make some adjustments." 

"Events on the Parkway are challenging," Dubinski said. "I think at the end of this, it will be time for another conversation among key individuals about how best to manage events like this."

Back at the Art Museum, Harrity noted that spring is usually a season that sees attendance increase. This year, despite the presence of a blockbuster show of American watercolor painting organized by curator Kathleen Foster, attendance has not gone up.

Instead, “we’re seeing reductions,” Harrity said.