Our view: Duluth Children’s Museum is doing great, but needs help to reach its goalsMichael Garcia can understand the confusion. Just a little more than a year ago, the Duluth Children’s Museum, where he’s president and CEO, made a high-profile move from its cramped space in the basement of the Depot downtown to spacious new digs at the Clyde Iron campus in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. That was followed by a first year at Clyde Iron that absolutely brimmed with success and growth.
Michael Garcia can understand the confusion.
Just a little more than a year ago, the Duluth Children’s Museum, where he’s president and CEO, made a high-profile move from its cramped space in the basement of the Depot downtown to spacious new digs at the Clyde Iron campus in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. That was followed by a first year at Clyde Iron that absolutely brimmed with success and growth.
So Garcia can forgive anyone for assuming the major move was the final move, that the museum was in its permanent home already, and that its three-year-old, nearly $5 million capital campaign was successfully completed. A significant drop-off in contributions suggested such assumptions to be widespread.
But they’re not accurate. And now that Garcia and others at the Children’s Museum have seen their business plan for a bigger facility succeed, they’re eager to get back to — and to refocus the community on — completing the capital campaign they launched in 2010.
“We’re not done yet,” Garcia said in an interview with the News Tribune Opinion page.
The ultimate goal is another move, a final move, into a century-old brewery building on Helm Street between Clyde Iron and Interstate 35. The Children’s Museum bought the building in 2009 for $725,000.
An estimated $4.8 million is needed to transform it into three stories of educational enjoyment. Work can begin once at least $2.5 million is raised. That could happen as soon as this winter, Garcia and others at the museum hope.
The sooner the better. Even in a bigger space at Clyde Iron, the museum is desperate for storage and office space. And it has an artifacts collection of 35,000 pieces it hasn’t been able to show to the public since moving from the Depot.
“We want to unpack,” said Becky Byers Strand, the museum’s newly hired vice president for development.
Her job is fundraising for the capital campaign, the museum’s first in its 83-year history.
The Helm Street building will offer enough space for rotating and/or traveling exhibits and for permanent features such as a technology and science center, a kitchen lab, a stage and performance area, a bubble room and a rooftop garden. With more space, programming can be expanded to better serve toddlers and teenagers, including with the museum’s more than 13 community partners.
The new facility promises to be well-used. An active Boys and Girls Club is right next door in the Duluth Heritage Sports Center. And families in town for hockey tournaments, soccer clinics and other activities at the sports center always are eager for things to do between games and sessions.
Donors can contribute to the project confident they’re not going it alone. The museum received $100,000 from the Minnesota Department of Education. And in January 2010 it learned it would receive $250,000 a year for 25 years in state-collected tax money via the Clean Water, Land and Legacy fund. Voters approved the new sales tax in 2008. The money, for operations, assures the children’s museum a secure financial footing.
Donors can contribute, too, knowing they’re giving to more than just a children’s museum.
“People are linking play, informal education and family fun with community vitality and the desire for a livable city and livable environments,” Garcia told the Opinion page three summers ago. “This (project) is good for all of Duluth.”
And it’s a project well worth all of Duluth rallying around.