By Jill Diamond
If you thought museums were only for adults, guess again.
Take the New Children’s Museum of San Diego, which is not only a popular local destination, but also one of 10 recipients recently awarded the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service by The Institute of Museum and Library Services.
The award is considered the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries. In the past 25 years, the accolade has celebrated institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions for individuals, families and communities. The award will be presented at a June 12 event in Washington, D.C.
According to Deputy Museum Director Tomoko Kuta: “The New Children’s Museum is thrilled to receive the National Medal. Being recognized on a national scale for the work we are doing both inside the museum and out in the community reinforces how integral we’ve become to the fabric of this great city.”
Combining two elements often not seen together — contemporary art and a place for children to learn and play — the New Children’s Museum seeks to innovate and expand boundaries, all in the interest of sparking the imaginations of its young visitors, Kuta said.
Selected from 30 national finalists, the 2019 National Medal winners represent institutions that provide dynamic programming and services that exceed expected levels of service. Through their community outreach, these institutions bring about change that touches the lives of individuals and helps communities thrive.
“Artists are often at the cutting edge of new ideas,” said CEO and Executive Director Judy Forrester. “Sometimes, they make waves that people aren’t quite ready for, but we think that is really important. As a museum, we need to be forward thinking and embrace diversity. Art is a great way for people to express themselves, to explore, to discover, to take risks, and to fail safely. We engage artists because they model these things for us, and the kids get to experience it all firsthand.
“This is an incredible honor for the New Children’s Museum, and for the entire San Diego community. Our partnerships with community centers, social service organizations, schools and other groups over the past 11 years have enabled us to share our unique approach to art, creativity and play,” Forrester continued. “It’s also a testament to our strong board of directors and wonderful staff, whose efforts truly made this win possible.”
As part of the award celebration, San Diego community member Rizzhel Javier will travel to Washington with the museum to accept the National Medal on behalf of the New Children’s Museum and provide a personal account of the impact the museum has had in the community. Javier is a San Diego artist that has been inspired by — and inspirational to — the New Children’s Museum. In 2018, she led art-making workshops at community centers, as well as in the museum.
Her project, “People and Places,” set the theme for outreach programs Mass Creativity and Comunidad, as well as for a temporary installation in the museum’s Community Gallery.
“The workshops the New Children’s Museum provides are really beneficial to the community because they are able to access a lot of areas of San Diego that might not typically go to the museum or have the resources,” she said.
The New Children’s Museum is a new model of children’s museum whose mission “is to stimulate imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children and families through inventive and engaging experiences with contemporary art. Located Downtown, the museum collaborates with contemporary artists to design and create art installations and educational programs for children. The museum brings families together in a rich educational environment that fosters creativity — blending the best elements of children’s museums, contemporary art museums and community resources.”
Families across San Diego have a fondness for the museum and like to spend time there exploring its many options.
“The museum is an incredible venue for creative growth and beauty. We love bringing the twins here to play and explore,” said Nick and Agatha Borrelli, who have two kids and have been visiting for two years. “Whether it’s with us, our wonderful nanny, Danielle, or our family members, the museum provides a unique opportunity to expose our children to the magic potential of their imagination … and simultaneously release their wiggles!”
“My best memory at the museum is hard to describe,” added Alexandra Albro, who has three kids and has been a member for five years. “I love seeing the wonderment on the children’s faces when they learn something new. You see their eyes widen and they feel a sense of accomplishment. I think that’s my best experience.”
“After our first visit to the museum, the kids loved it so much that we knew we would be back often, so a membership was an easy choice,” said Kim Belverud, who has two children. “My kids were 4 and 2 at the time of our first visit and they loved playing around in ‘Wobbleland.’ They are tactile learners and love learning with their hands. As parents, we loved the variety of the art installations and how often new ones are introduced. We also loved the different activities and programs the museum offers.”
The New Children’s Museum of San Diego is located at 200 W. Island Ave., San Diego, CA 92101.
— Jill Diamond is a Southern California freelance writer with a penchant for interesting historical pieces. Reach her at JillDiamondHistory@gmail.com.