Three Safes Down…

Three safes were moved out of the bank! The museum is looking less like a bank due to the “sale” of three safes. The safes were offered for free to anyone willing to move them, which was a sizeable effort. Dave Surma, a foreman with El-Jay Plumbing & Heating, had been working in the building on a gas line project for Xcel Energy when he became aware that the safes were available. He decided to take on the project of removing the safes and finding them new homes. It took two full days and a crew of workers to move the safes. They constructed a steel beam gantry spanning two rooms to lift the safes onto carts. They used an elaborate hoist system and winches to pull the safes out around the various obstacles, up a ramp and out the door where the gantry system had to be built again to lift the safes onto the back of a truck. It was quite a production to move the three heavy safes. We are very thankful to have them out and fulfilling their next purpose.

Safe Removal

United Way Day of Caring

Our PEL Lab space is looking great because of eleven volunteers from the United Way Day of Caring. On Thursday, September 19, they spent the day painting the 1200 square foot room where we plan to host our PEL Labs and the restroom in that space. The volunteers also dismantled some shelving in an older vault. Volunteers came from several employers, including GeoComm, Minnwest Bank, PCI, Safelite Auto Glass and Toppan Merrill. Thanks for all the hard work!

Fundraising and Costs

We will soon be kicking off our capital campaign! Through the museum planning process our financial goals are becoming more clearly defined. We continue to have operating expenses for the project that are similar to start-up costs for any new business. We are grateful to all the volunteers who have been donating time so generously. The project has been operating on volunteer passion for several years now with the recent addition of hired consultants who have assisted with marketing, museum planning, architecture and other specialties. The project has also undertaken some minor construction costs to make the building safe for people touring and for guests of our roundtable discussions and PEL Labs. Every dollar we raise now helps to propel this project forward. It is also our hope to ready ourselves for hiring our first employees, beginning with an executive director, in the coming months.

With the autumn season upon us, please consider the Great River Children’s Museum in your year end giving plans.

African Cultural Festival

The Great River Children’s Museum had the opportunity to share play activities and information at the African Cultural Festival at Lake George on Sunday, September 15th. It was a beautiful day for the first annual outdoor event. Our volunteers were able to connect with a wide range of community members who shared their ideas about what they would like to see in a children’s museum serving Central Minnesota. They were also fortunate to be able to enjoy wonderful entertainment including African drumming, dance, poetry and song. Thanks to all who stopped by our booth and to the St. Cloud African Cultural Organization for inviting us!

The Value of Children’s Museums

“Welcoming,” “flourishing,” “connected,” “community” – these are a few of the inspiring words you will find in the newly completed 63-page museum plan that has come out of a series of sessions with museum planners, Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Rowe, early childhood experts and children’s museum leaders. Over the course of several months, the planning group has crafted a clear and comprehensive plan for a museum in downtown Saint Cloud. They envision positive changes for children and families in Central Minnesota and beyond as a result of the Great River Children’s Museum’s presence in the community.

The Museum will bring expanding opportunities to the Greater St. Cloud Area. This will be possible because the community will place a value on play as essential to children’s learning and wellbeing. Families of all backgrounds will be connected around a shared interest in their children. Children will be prepared for a more culturally diverse community and a changing world. The entire community will recognize that it thrives when its children thrive! 

PEL Labs and Roundtables

You may be wondering… What is a PEL Lab? What happens around round tables?  The Museum is beginning to reach out strategically to community members to gather input into museum creation. Board members and community volunteers are putting together two unique series of events, each with its own purpose.

Play, Explore and Learn Labs, or PEL Labs for short, are events for adults and children to come to into the museum for a small sample of a museum experience. The goal is for the Museum to learn how to design exhibits and programming that work for our community. A group of professionals will design each experience and invite families to come play and explore. Museum volunteers will use this as an opportunity to learn what works well and what doesn’t. The information will be used for planning museum spaces, exhibits and activities.

Roundtables are opportunities for board members and the museum planning team to ask key questions of community members. Through these discussions, the Museum hopes to hear from a wide range of diverse voices from throughout Central Minnesota. This input will help the Museum understand what the community wants in a museum and how best to serve the Greater St. Cloud Area. There is great value in taking time to sit around a table and talk face-to-face about big ideas for improving a community, in this case, through the creation of a children’s museum.

If you would like to take part in either of these events, please make sure you have completed our survey. We have been collecting input over the last six months via this same survey. It has been circulating at events and on social media. If you have not yet completed it, we would like to hear your voice. At the end of the survey, there is an opportunity to express your interest in participating in roundtable discussions. Thank you for your input into the project!

Creative Imaginings

Over the past several months, the planning group has been having many conversations with museum planners Jeanne Vergeront and Jim Roe and JLG architects to develop creative concepts for how to make the best use of the building. The museum planners have captured and clearly expressed the philosophy of the museum, the goals for various exhibit areas, and targets for future programming. The architects have dug into all the nooks and crannies of the building and created some early drawings based on the museum’s expressed goals. The museum planning group will now put these two products together to come up with one unified presentation to be shared with the community. We are excited to get your feedback and input as we dig deeper into the details of building design, exhibit concepts, and museum programming. The images will also be a big help as we kick off our capital campaign, raising the funds needed to bring these dreams to life.

Buddy King

Buddy King

When Buddy King joined the board in the fall, he came at a crucial time for the organization. We were growing the board, accepting a building donation, and taking on a lot of responsibility. Buddy jumped into the project with both feet and a passion for the mission of creating a children’s museum to serve children and families in Central Minnesota. Buddy has served as the director of the Roosevelt Boys and Girls Club. While in this position, he enjoyed supporting kids in the community, creating engaging programs, and empowering staff and community members to positively influence youth. Since leaving the Boys and Girls Club in March of this year, Buddy has been able to dedicate more time to the museum and Higher Work Collaborative, a non profit organization that focuses on the needs of disadvantaged or underrepresented populations. Music is another of Buddy’s talents that he is looking forward to sharing with the community at the concert on August 20th. Hopefully you can take advantage of this opportunity to have fun, make music and meet Buddy and his friends!

Community Contributions

Community members continue to step up and generously contribute to bringing the museum to life.

Coborn’s Inc. has donated a refrigerator for the museum building. This has been very helpful for the frequent meetings happening at the museum. Cool refreshments are much appreciated by our volunteers.

Creating an opening between two main floor rooms, to make it possible to offer programming for children and families, required some simple remodeling to meet city codes. It proved challenging to find a commercial contractor who could do the work during the busy construction season. Then generous bids came back from community members who were able to complete the construction project. Soon United Way volunteers will help with painting to put the final touches on these rooms.

Many little adjustments needed to be made to bring the building into compliance with fire codes and ADA. One of our volunteers pulled up and leveled the paving stones at the back of the building to bring the rear entrance into ADA compliance as pictured below.

Sidewalk before
Before
Sidewalk After
After

We continue to be grateful for the involvement of community members who are willing to give of their time and energy to bring a children’s museum to the St. Cloud Area. We look forward to using the newly remodeled spaces to learn about putting together quality programming with children and families as well as gathering groups from the community to collect input.

Making a Documentary

What do you do with a former bank building while you wait for it to be transformed into a children’s museum? Make a documentary about a bankrobber, of course! The building was recently used by a crew of filmmakers to reenact the crimes of the Fishing Hat Bandit. According to the creators of the film:

“The Fishing Hat Bandit (working title) is a feature length documentary about the bank robbery spree of John Whitrock, also known as the Fishing Hat Bandit. Whitrock robbed 23 banks over the course of 18 months before being apprehended in Edina in January 2005. The film will include interviews with Whitrock, several of the bank tellers he victimized, the bank manager who helped catch the bandit, the two FBI lead investigators and others.”

“This film will not just focus on the Fishing Hat Bandit’s crimes, but also on the experiences of the bank tellers he victimized. Often, crime stories sensationalize the crime narrative with little regard for the victims. This film will tell a balanced story that illustrates the resilience of the many bank employees affected and includes a strong restorative justice theme.”

The timing of the project was perfect! The teller stations were still intact and hadn’t been used for museum purposes yet. The board happily agreed to share space with this creative project. It will be fun to see the final product!