Children’s Museum of Tacoma new location opens Saturday, January 14th

The Children’s Museum of Tacoma has a new location at 1501 Pacific Avenue in Tacoma. The old Children’s Museum was closed on December 19, 2011 and the new museum opens January 14, 2012 at 11 am (in honor of the museum’s 25th anniversary, the museum was closed for 25 days). On the grand opening day (January 14, 2012), there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Marilyn Strickland and representative Laurie Jinkins will co-host the ribbon cutting at 10:30 am.

Tanya Andrews explained the reasoning for the move, “The Children’s Museum has been looking for a new home for over 10 years. We outgrew our space on Broadway. We have a 10% increase of visitation every year, and as a result of the growing, the space started closing in on us. We weren’t able to serve a broad range of people like we wanted to, since the museum was so small. As we set out to look for a new home, and did a survey in the community resoundingly people wanted us to stay downtown and plug into the museum district. They wanted parking to be easily accessible so, we have a home run on the location. I’m looking at the freeway right now, the light rail link stop is just up the street, and it’s convenient and very, very, fun for families to do. There is parking, of course on big days where members can park in adjacent parking lot and on weekends everyone can park there. We’re happy to accommodate that. We selected this building two years ago, ever since it’s been designing and planning what would be inside the museum.”

Tanya Andrews, who has worked at the museum for 15 years and has been a director for 12, expressed what she thought of the museum, “It’s my pleasure, and I just adore the museum. Moreover, I strongly believe in the museum’s mission that the community needs to take seriously the role that play has in the healthy development of young children. The museum board has done two interesting things: 1. Thinks about the museum as an early learning model and really pushes creativity and imagination, and with the documentation and assessment in the museum. This will offer the community to use play as meeting their developmental milestones joyfully and very effectively through play. All things need to be successful in life and school, and we believe they can get that through play. Through the Children’s Museum, we can sort of showcase and model the ways an adult can support children’s play and also create spaces, environments to support children’s investigation and all the things that happen when they play. 2. We are moving to a pay as you will admission model. We won’t effectively be charging (we are the first private children’s museum in the country) to give this a try. We’re asking what people will and can afford to pay for admission. The Board is raising money to ensure the museum remains stable while we take on this experiment. Key Bank has made a significant contribution, a $250,000 donation to the museum.”

Tanya poses and answers the question: What are all the barriers for a family to visit the children’s museum? Tanya stated, “1. Awareness; working really hard to get the word out.
2. The museum feeling accessible and obviously we’re off the freeway right on the transit lines.
3. Cost is a barrier for a family, so we said, “Let’s get rid of it.” We also hope it’s an educational opportunity for families so when they come in with their family, there are no costs. The family is invited to contribute, which is a great way to talk to families about all of us coming together in the community to make things happen and it gives the family an opportunity to talk to their family about contributing dollars and just inviting philanthropy.”

When asked what her goals and plans for the museum were, Tanya replied, “I would love to see the broader community and the systems that surround our young children’s educational systems. All the systems that surround our young families; anything from the educational system to how we organize our work day. Understanding, appreciating, and ultimately responding to the child’s innate need to play and really using that beautiful gift as a way to educate them or help them educate themselves. We believe children can and will guide their learning journey and that’s really a playful journey when they’re little, and adults can support that. It’s one of our goals that every young family in this community sees this museum as theirs, they feel comfortable; feel that it meets their needs, and that we’re building a community here that cares about little people. It’s really about creating this caring community.”

Tanya shared what she was most excited about with the museum, “Two huge exciting things: 1. The pay as you go model, which is a “come one, come all;” it’s not an issue for anybody we’re really excited about that. 2. I’m really excited about the “playscapes” (the museum’s new word for “exhibits”). They are created to spark imagination, encourage creativity, and open platforms; not necessarily dictate what I expect to do/play here; the child can make it be whatever they want it to be. Our job is to make the props: the costumes, the toys, the plush, the building materials, and bring those basis to life. The playscapes are encouraging physical development which is something we weren’t able to offer in the old museum because the space is too small. We offer some real healthy physical challenges; which is fun.”

Tanya discussed what many people may not know about the museum, “The general public may not know everything in our space is something everyone in the community wanted. We surveyed our members, the general community, and had an open survey on our website a couple years ago inviting the larger community and had over 350 responses. We felt that was a significant contribution and the Tacoma News Tribune helped as well as Architects BCRA. We did a couple community input sessions and literally dreamt together what the space might be. We have a nice long list of advisors that have worked with us. Everything is purposeful. Everything comes from feedback or suggestion.”

Tanya revealed how the museum was different compared to other children’s museums, “First of all, we’re free. And secondly, we are really pushing the imagination, the playscapes are somewhat abstract. They’re very sculptural and meant to be quite artistic.” When asked who she recommended visit the museum, Tanya replied, “The museum is designed for children age 8 and younger and the adults that care for them, however, we are doing members sneak peak events this week. I’ve been seeing eight, nine, and ten year olds having a ball. What do you have to lose? Come give it a try. Your older children may just love stretching their creativity muscles and love engaging with the little young children.”

When asked if she recommended family and friends to the museum, Tanya replied, “Yep, absolutely! It’s an adult child experience. You don’t drop your child off, it’s something you do with your child or child you’re caring for. It’s a great opportunity for a niece or nephew for the day…A great opportunity to enjoy. Put a plug for café play which is powered by Satellite Coffee, it’s another local partnership. We hope the local business community can see the Children’s Museum as a place to get a good cup of coffee, have a meeting, bring your laptop and enjoy the big windows, and see the joyful children come in. I think we see this as sort of a home base for people in the community to celebrate the young children in our community.”

For more information about the Children’s Museum, please visit: www.playtacoma.org

Tanya concluded with a quote that she loves, “Communities build monuments to things that they think are important. I am really proud that the board of directors define monumental not by size, but by impact. They wanted welcoming, open, and broad; not big.”

By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com