Museum exhibit design taking shape

You’re invited to sponsor an exhibit

By Heidi L. Everett, PhD GRCM board member and marketing committee chair

What began as a chicken hatchery, eventually morphed into an athletic club, and turned into a bank ultimately will transform into Great River Children’s Museum. Recent initial design schematics hinted at the shape of things to come.

On July 20, 2021, our exhibit designers shared their vision with museum board members and volunteers as well as our construction partner BCI

Split Rock Studios and Haizlip Studios both have decades experience designing children’s museums, and they spent hours this spring walking the halls of the 25,000-square-foot building generously donated by Liberty Bank in downtown St. Cloud. Team members lifted ceiling tiles, peeked under flooring, marveled at the racquet-ball-court-turned conference room, navigated awkward floor transitions between building additions and utility spaces trying to envision what the future museum visitor experience could be.

As designer Reb Haizlip put it, “It was a strange path – awkward and inefficient.”

So the exhibit design team spent a few months reimagining every inch of the space from top to bottom, side to side, inside and out to reconfigure it and to propose an “amazing communal space where everybody is dialed in. The heart of the museum,” Reb said.

The initial design schematics celebrated the diversity and richness of experiences in Central Minnesota, from the ever-changing marketplace with its unique foods, textiles and spices to the many meandering ways in which kiddos can engage, explore and understand water as a recreational platform, habitat, energy source, sacred element and essential piece of commerce.

Climber to the Clouds – an exhibit proudly sponsored by the Coborn Family Foundation – will be the centerpiece of the museum. This multi-story, interactive climbing structure is forecasted to create a flurry of physical and intellectual activities for thrill seekers, storm chasers, and weather enthusiasts alike with its awe-inspiring heights, colors and sound. 

The engineering zone will provide ample space for little ones and their caregivers to harness the wind, shed some light on solar power circuits, build bridges and work with water as an energy source.

Another exhibit will showcase a magical experience of 24-hours in Minnesota and include trees, a tree house, rope bridge, and campsite. This space will play with light and sound transitions between night and day including bird song, loons calling, wind blowing through trees, the crackle of a campfire, and northern lights. The large tent will be ideal for reading books by day and telling stories with shadow puppets as night falls in the exhibit. Stepping stones will invite kiddos to cross the headwaters of the Mississippi, and a canoe will inspire new adventures downstream.

These are just descriptions of the many delightful details soon to follow. In September, we hope to have detailed exhibit designs to share for our core exhibits once the team makes revisions.

In other exciting news, next month Great River Children’s Museum will be announcing our second $1 million exhibit sponsor and details of that exhibit. 

If you’d like to join the Coborn Family Foundation and other exhibit sponsors, please contact our Executive Director Cassie Miles at 320-200-4110 extension 101 or cassie.miles@greatrivercm.org to learn which exhibits are still available.

If your organization is interested in becoming a corporate sponsor of Great River Children’s Museum in a different capacity, please connect with Cassie as well to discuss options.
Finally, to learn more about the process of exhibit design up until now, read our blog Ready, Set … Exhibits.

Coborn Family Foundation gifts $1 million to Great River Children’s Museum

Donation will help open doors to the extraordinary power of play

St. CLOUD – On June 30, 2021, the Coborn Family Foundation announced a $1 million dollar pledge to Great River Children’s Museum for exhibit sponsorship to commemorate the company’s 100-year anniversary celebration. 

“We’re pleased to support Great River Children’s Museum, where families can come together and be strengthened as they experience the joy of play together,” said Emily Coborn, president of the Coborn Family Foundation and vice president of operations for Coborn’s, Inc’s eastern region.  “We are thankful to the Central Minnesota community for the 100 years of support it has provided to Coborn’s, Inc., and we are pleased to give back to Central Minnesota families through this gift,” she said. 

Great River Children’s Museum (GRCM) currently is in the fund-raising phase of museum development. At the same time, the organization is working with three exhibit companies to finalize core museum exhibits. Coborn’s will be the sponsor of one of these exhibits.

“We are grateful for the shared vision of our community partners, who know Great River Children’s Museum will serve as a life source to strengthen families, build community connections, and increase the value of our local economies,” said Cassie Miles, GRCM executive director. “This gift is incredibly energizing as we continue to work to open our doors in Central Minnesota,”

About Coborn’s, Inc.
St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc. is a 100-year-old employee-owned grocery retailer with nearly 9,300 employees and 59 grocery stores across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin under the Coborn’s, Cash Wise Foods, Marketplace Foods and Hornbacher’s banners. Coborn’s, Inc. also owns liquor and pharmacy locations. To support its 130 various retail business units, Coborn’s, Inc. operates its own central bakery, dry cleaning facility and grocery distribution center. In 2021, Coborn’s, Inc. was recognized by the Shelby Report Midwest as their Retailer of the Year.

About Great River Children’s Museum
Great River Children’s Museum is an emerging museum that will reside in downtown St. Cloud, thanks to Liberty Bank’s $1.4 million donation of its building. 

GRCM’s mission is to Open Worlds through the extraordinary power of play. The museum currently is in a capital campaign to develop a place where every child and their caring adults can create, explore, discover and be inspired. The museum’s Board of Directors is working with experienced museum planners, exhibit designers, and architects to transform its 25,000 square foot space into one that celebrates the rich, natural elements, resources and cultures of Central Minnesota. 

GRCM is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization and member of the Association of Children’s Museums