Lincoln Road’s Museum of Illusions faces COVID-19 reality

Photo of an optical illusion at the Miami Museum of Illusions. (Katherine Miranda/SFMN)

One of mankind’s greatest accomplishments is space travel. But few people have had the opportunity to leave the planet and actually see the stars up close. At a Lincoln Road museum, you can do the next best thing: get your picture taken floating in space.

Kind of. It’s an illusion. 

In fact, the Miami Museum of Illusions guarantees that visitors will appear to be floating in space. 

As COVID-19 ravages the city, tourists and residents who have long been stuck at home are looking for safe ways to enjoy the outside world and escape everyday reality. This museum has sanitized, lowered capacity, and have required masks for employees and visitors alike to make it safe. 

Miami is full of museums, many of which offer themed photo opportunities. There is one for science, another for art, and there was even one for ice cream that was an Instagram sensation. However, the Museum of Illusions, which charges adults $25 to enter, is among the most interesting because it offers a new perspective on how guests can interact with art. 

The museum originated in Russia, and the first few locations were established there. It then expanded to Latin America, Los Angeles, San Francisco and most recently to South Beach in December 2019. 

The paintings that are the heart of the museums reflect the unique cultures of every city where they are located. In Miami there are more than 40 interactive illusions. Each one has a 3-D effect that makes guests look like a part of what’s happening. “Bring imagination, fun and expression” is the slogan. It’s much more than a place to take photos and view art. It’s somewhere that all guests can express themselves through pictures and become part of the artwork. 

“We want people’s imaginations to run wild at the museum,” says Anya Lonskaya, a manager. 

A huge shoe is just one of the paintings at the Miami Museum of Illusions. (Katherine Miranda/SFMN)

 

Like all area museums, it shut down due to COVID-19 on March 18. It then reopened May 20.

“We were closed for two and a half months,” Lonskaya said. “Obviously we are an entertainment venue so we had to be careful and restructure our business in a way where we could come back from this pandemic.” 

The entertainment and tourism industry has been among the hardest-hit businesses in Miami, according to a Florida International University report completed in April.  Since opening, the museum has had to adjust to federal guidelines such as social distancing, wearing a mask and keeping the business sanitary. 

Just like other Miami entertainment businesses, it had to lay off some of its employees.

Hot times at the Miami Museum of Illusions. (Katherine Miranda/SFMN)

“Unfortunately because the business was affected so much,  we were only able to bring a portion of our staff back,” Lonskaya said. “The number of staff members that are currently working right now is only about 25 to 30%.” Managers and supervisors had to help rebuild the business, but other job titles like cashier and photographer are still on standby. 

There are no more crowds or lines at the entrance. A visit is almost like going on a private tour or having a photography studio to yourself. “Currently we are only operating at less than 50% capacity,” Lonskaya says. “We want to ensure that everybody is able to experience the museum in the right way.” 

Before the pandemic, about 300 people would visit per day. Now with the new guidelines and social distancing rules, only 100 guests per day come by. 

Damon Godbolt is a photographer there. “It is a lot more difficult in terms of interacting with guests,” he said. “Once I bring them in and go over all the procedures and rules, they feel safer, I stay sanitized because I’m always touching everybody’s phones and taking everybody’s photos.”

Anya Lonskaya and David Godbolt. (Katherine Miranda/SFMN)

The social distancing is hard to achieve, especially when you want good photos, but Godbolt urges guests to pay $10 to rent tripods. “We are definitely pushing them to get the tripods because with them, we don’t have to touch their phones at all. We just tell them how to place them and operate the tripod.” He also makes sure to clean up after an exchange of phones.

Guests are required to wear face masks when entering and must keep them on when moving around. However, when taking photos one can remove the mask. Guests are also expected to sanitize their hands before and after experiencing the museum.

“We have noticed that people are feeling great and open to coming and experiencing the museum,” Lonskaya stated. If guests buy tickets and change their minds about entry, they can reschedule for up to one year after purchase. Adult ticket admission costs $25 and kids between the ages of 4 and 12 can enter for $16. Those under 3 years old pay nothing. There is also a “best-friends” pack that allows you and a loved one to enter for $40.

Photo of the entrance at the Miami Museum of Illusions. (Katherine Miranda/SFMN)

For more information visit miaillusions.com or contact them by email at infomia@miaillusions.com. The museum is located at 536 Lincoln Rd. on Miami Beach and open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. till 9 p.m. You can call them at (305) 604-5000 and find them on Instagram at @museumofillusions.usa.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of a photographer at the Museum of Illusions. It is Damon Godbolt.

Katherine Miranda is a journalism student at Florida International University. She adores the arts, is a huge animal lover and enjoys writing.