Public input sought in children’s museum idea
Area residents are asked to attend one of two public forums on Tuesday to get information about a concept to build a children’s museum or discovery center here and to give their feedback.
The project is being explored by a group of local educators and professionals called the Creative Learning Alliance. The group will ask residents at the forum for their input on what kind of experience they would like to see offered at a children’s museum, also called a science center or discovery center, said Audie Dennis, president of the alliance board.
Those who attend also will be asked what types of exhibits and interactive activities they would like to engage in and what age group should be the target audience of a center.
Residents may attend a public forum from 2 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 8 p.m. in the large conference room at the Joplin Public Library, 1901 E. 20th St. Dennis said people can come and go as they wish during those hours. There will be play stations set up for children, who also will be asked for their feedback.
The Creative Learning Alliance is a committee of 15 people with a board of six that has been meeting for more than a year to explore the possibility.
Dennis said committee members include several educators, including Melinda Moss, superintendent of the Joplin School District. Professionals in the financial sector, architects and entrepreneurs also are all part of the grassroots committee, Dennis said.
“We feel like we have a very balanced committee that brings a good skill set to the table and represents a good cross-section of the community,” he said.
The idea came up in early 2017 when the Vision Joplin 2022 talks were going on to brainstorm long-term plans for the community. One committee of that group was assigned to identify potential destination attractions for Joplin. After the children’s museum idea was discussed in those meetings, some members of that committee formed an exploratory committee on the idea.
Dennis said the members since then have gone to some children’s museums as they traveled individually or with their families to check out the buildings and talk to the directors. They also joined the National Association of Children’s Museums, which has given the committee resources on the process of considering a museum, things to look out for along the way and steps to take to advance the study of the idea.
“We have found that it is typically a five- to eight-year endeavor from the concept to the day you cut the ribbon. We have a very aggressive goal. This was a Vision 2022 project, so our goal is to open in May 2022,” which would be the five-year anniversary of Vision Joplin’s final report, Dennis said. Creating a museum here was one of the recommendations in that report.
Dennis said the group first talked about its structure and agreed to form a nonprofit organization. An application to be granted a 501(c)(3) status from the IRS is pending.
“We have done a lot of visioning of what a process like this would look like in our city and what kinds of things we wanted included. We want a STEAM-based museum, which uses exhibits that teach science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics” in a fun way, Dennis said.
Having identified the purpose of the concept, “we realized that to go out and talk to potential partners and donors, we needed to have proof that this was a viable concept that could be successful in our community, and the way to do that was to get an unbiased feasibility study done. So we spent some time on what that should look like and what should that encompass,” he said.
One of the committee members, architect Chad Greer, was involved in a children’s museum in Tampa, Florida, and he had some contacts in the industry. That led to a list of candidates to conduct the study. The committee has contracted a company and the study has started.
The group is still raising the funds to pay for the study.
“Once we get the feasibility study done, and hopefully that will show this is a viable project for the community, we will start taking steps to put together a capital campaign,” Dennis said.
The feasibility study will look at the area’s demographics, what other attractions are in the community, the area’s economic base and what other venues are within the market area. Dennis said nearby children’s museums are located in Springfield, Bentonville, Arkansas, Kansas City and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“We want to be a complement to those versus a direct competitor,” he said.
That study also will include a needs assessment, which will look at the definition of the market area, an analysis of demographics and socioeconomic factors of residents and potential museum visitors. There will be an assessment of competition, community needs and current trends and financial analysis.
The study also will give an estimate of attendance and operational capacity. It also will recommend potential locations, building size and suggested types of exhibits.
The committee has some potential target areas in mind for a location: Interstate 44 and Range Line Road, Main Street and I-44, the Cunningham Park area, downtown Joplin and around the Joplin Public Library. Residents who attend Tuesday’s forum will be asked to give input on where they think the museum should go.
Dennis said the public forum is also part of the feasibility study, and input from it will be included in the final report, which is due by the end of November.
Committee members have identified benefits they believe the community would derive from the museum project. Dennis said those include:
• Improving the quality of life in the area by providing recreation as well as a learning experience at home.
• Contributing to the local economy by drawing visitors to Joplin.
• Providing opportunities for local business and educational institutions to partner with the museum.
• Adding an attraction to Joplin’s offerings for employers when recruiting new employees.
Questions about the project may be emailed to info@CreativeLearningAlliance.org.
If the museum is built, about 20 percent of its funding would come from admission prices and revenue from its operation, about 40 percent is expected to come from various grants and about 40 percent from partnerships and contributions, Dennis said.
Original Article: https://www.joplinglobe.com/news/public-input-sought-in-childrens-museum-idea/article_66c6deec-d3da-11e8-9261-9fbc969bd639.html
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)