By MICHAEL HINMAN
They got together and celebrated. After more than 15 years of hard work, fundraising and planning, the Bronx Children’s Museum is finally ready to open.
Some of the borough’s biggest names gathered at what is affectionately known as “The Power Plant” near Yankee Stadium last week to celebrate what museum officials have called a “Key Ceremony.” – where they officially take possession of the space on the second floor designed for children. until the fourth year.
“I’m going to try not to cry all morning because it really is such an important day for the Bronx Children’s Museum. For all of us, ”said Hope Harley, chair of the museum’s board of trustees.
“So many of us in this room have worked so long and hard to make this day a success, so I won’t dwell on the past. I will focus on the future because we are on the right track. Our doors will soon be open to the public. And it is just wonderful.
There are more than 190,000 children in the Bronx under the age of 9, but the borough is the only one in the city that does not have a museum dedicated to this population. Since Harley co-founded the museum in 2005, securing the actual space has been a challenge. Despite these physical limitations, the Bronx Children’s Museum continued to operate “without walls,” delivering arts and science programs to some 16,000 children each year until the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in schools, shelters, libraries and the parks.
Many have experienced the museum on wheels in the form of a large purple bus. In just one year, he visited 23 schools as well as 85 fairs and festivals.
Now just steps from the Bronx Terminal Market in a space controlled by the city’s parks department, the museum plans to have more than 13,000 square feet of interactive space in the former power generation building at Mill Pond Park starting this summer intended to accommodate some 30,000 children each year.
A number of elected officials joined Harley at the event, including incoming Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, who called last week’s key ceremony “a really big milestone for the Borough.” from the Bronx ”.
“Today in this very historic building that we call ‘the power station’ we are writing a powerful story,” she said. “After more than 13 years, I am so proud to be here today as one of the champions of this project, and a champion of our children and our families, with all of you to support this monumental project. “
The city has injected more than $ 14.7 million into the museum project and its operations, officials say, with an additional $ 4 million from state sources like the Assembly for its actual physical space. The museum itself has raised $ 4.3 million, mostly in the form of private funding, to create interactive exhibits as well as to purchase furniture, props and equipment.
Still, the museum required $ 1.2 million in operating costs this year and expects that to rise to $ 1.6 million next year. Organizers have already launched a new fundraising campaign in hopes of adding an additional $ 525,000 to its coffers by the end of the month, with an additional $ 2.1 million by 2023.
The interactive exhibits are expected to explore a number of areas including the arts, culture, science, community, natural resources and the environment. There will also be an Artist-in-Residence classroom space, as well as a multi-purpose performance space known as “The Cloud”.
What will likely be one of the museum’s most visible centerpieces is what officials describe as a 32-foot aquatic exhibit.
Among the political dignitaries was a face familiar to several generations around her – and a longtime advocate for the opening of the Bronx Children’s Museum. She’s an actress named Sonia Manzano, but for almost 45 years she played Maria on the PBS educational show “Sesame Street” – or as Oscar the Grouch liked to call her, “Skinny.”
“I know the importance of children and early childhood education,” said Manzano, who is now the creator of a children’s animated series, “Alma’s Way,” said through Fred Rogers Productions. “I know it’s very important for them to be young and to have a place where they can use their imaginations, flex their muscles and think about things. I love that it’s important for very young people to have a place to come to, where they can escape whatever is going on in their mind.
It was something Manzano wished he had growing up in the South Bronx. Even the mere thought of a museum could have gone a long way.
“What I find so remarkable and so exciting about children is that you don’t have to follow them to the end,” said Manzano. “All you have to do is point them in the right direction and watch them fly. “
The interior space – which will operate under the theme “Water Connects Us All” – was designed by the architectural firm O’Neill McVoy. It’s a place that combines a fine arts museum with a children’s museum, according to museum executive director Carla Precht, which “mimics a natural landscape with all its beauty, twists and turns, surprises and diversity”.
“The children of the Bronx deserve only the best,” Precht said in prepared remarks ahead of the ceremony. “We believe we have achieved this goal: a beautiful and unforgettable space that they will be proud of and enjoy for years to come. “