O Children, Where Art Thou?

Museum peace unlikely as a proposed family center in Phoenix fights critics over right to life.

"At some point, I think we have to recognize that having one good thing is enough," Meyerson says.

Meyerson, who has acted as a consultant for children's museums around the country, says keeping a new museum open is the challenge. Children's museums have a revolving clientele, unlike other cultural entities that have lifelong patrons. So they are constantly being challenged to lure new customers, she says.

Meyerson says officials at the Phoenix Family Museum may not realize how difficult it is to solicit contributions in the Valley. "I am out there very active in fund-raising," she says. "It's hard to raise money. There are a number of major institutions with large budgets that are struggling. Some were on life support for a while."

Mitch O'Connell
Barbara Meyerson, head of the Arizona Museum for Youth, shows plans for a $2.7 million expansion to the facility. She and other Mesa officials worry that the Valley won't be able to sustain two children's museums.
Paolo Vescia
Barbara Meyerson, head of the Arizona Museum for Youth, shows plans for a $2.7 million expansion to the facility. She and other Mesa officials worry that the Valley won't be able to sustain two children's museums.

Freeman says the Phoenix Family Museum believes it can maintain the funding to keep it viable. And she says cities like Chicago, which have four or five children's museums, have proven that there are markets for more than one such facility in a metropolitan area.

A national Association of Youth Museums directory shows only one in the Chicago city limits (home to 3 million people), with several others in surrounding areas. And New York City, with eight times the population of Phoenix, has three children's museums, according to the directory.

Phoenix councilman Gordon says it's "ludicrous" to think that two children's museums can't exist in the Valley. He says Phoenix should have its own museum, that there is an underserved population that would frequent a closer facility and that Mesa city officials shouldn't be telling the Phoenix mayor and council how to do their jobs.

"This whole thing has been blown out of proportion by some well-meaning people," he says.

Museum backers are confident the March 13 bond cultural proposal will pass and that the new facility could be open by 2004. But if they aren't successful at the polls, they aren't giving up.

"We are here to stay," Freeman says.

Click here for more information on the bond process and propositions Click here to visit the Phoenix Family Museum site

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