The New Mexican
Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Santa Fe Children’s Museum is recovering nicely from a fire that damaged its offices in February. The museum will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a party Sunday and is planning an expansion that will nearly double its space by next spring.
Associate Director Jeff Dailey said the museum will add about 4,500 square feet to its existing 5,000 square feet by moving into space in the west end of the building previously occupied by other tenants, including a María Benítez dance studio.
Dailey said most of the funds for the approximately $500,000 project have come from the Legislature.
During the most recent legislative session, “We were one of the projects that did not get axed because we were shovel-ready, and it’s just a great project,” Dailey said. “A lot of people believe in it.”
The expansion will be designed by local architect John Barton, who has worked on several other museums in New Mexico, including the Lincoln State Monument and the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. Barton also designed the remodel of the children’s museum greenhouse, which is part of a 1-acre outdoor exhibit space.
Dailey said a dividing wall between the existing space and the rest of the building will remain up during most of the construction, so the museum can stay open during the process. A window might be installed in the wall to allow visitors to observe the construction taking place.
The museum will close for a couple of weeks — most likely next January — while the integrated spaces are rearranged and decorated.
Dailey said the museum does not yet have all the money it needs to furnish and equip the bigger facility and will be kicking off a fundraising drive for that purpose in August.
The museum plans to add at least two more classrooms and a shop for building and repairing exhibits as part of the expansion. The rest of the new space will be devoted to exhibits, Dailey said. But plans for those are still in the works.
“We hope to use the birthday party to get some input from our visitors,” Dailey said. “We’ll have sketches of what we’ve planned so far, and invite children to draw in what they’d like to see.”
The museum’s 20th birthday party will also feature games, art projects and a hay ride. “And everybody gets their own cupcake to frost,” Dailey said. “We are going to have frosting all over the place.”