This year, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate transformed the theater at its Greenville location and added a brand-new exhibit that incorporates learning into a rousing nine holes of mini-golf. But the museum’s updates are more than skin-deep, says Jessie Cappello, marketing and communications manager. From the images on the walls to the themes of its summer programs, every change is intentionally designed to further its mission.
“COVID was a moment not just to survive, but to recommit ourselves to our mission ‘to ignite a community of compassionate problem solvers through intentional and inclusive play,’” Cappello says. “We’re also committed to making sure that ‘no barrier is bigger than a dream,’ and any child who wants to come through those doors can.”
Cappello says the museum is reinvigorating its scholarship program so that every available resource is used to improve access. In 2019, the museum joined 300 partner museums across the country in implementing Museums for All, making its admissions rate more affordable for families who participate in SNAP/EBT.
“We want to make sure every child who wants to has the opportunity to come and engage with staff that cares about them,” she says. “We’ve renewed our focus on creating a meaningful experience for members and new visitors. We’re constantly asking what will kids take home, what the impact will be beyond these walls.”
The new Dream Theater invites children and their families into an immersive environment. Local artist Adam Schrimmer, owner of Blank Canvas Mural Company, painted a 1,050-square-foot mural entitled “Rooftop Dreams” along the walls, risers and part of the ceiling. The painting features clouds and familiar scenes of the Greenville skyline in a progression of colors deepening from dawn to dusk, creating an imaginative setting for Story Time and More and other educational programs.
“It looks like they’re sitting on a rooftop, looking over the skyline,” Cappello says. “The improvements are all about giving kids the ability to dream and feel like they can be anything they want to be.”
The new exhibit, “Geo’s Golf: Swinging Through Greenville” is a custom-built course with nine holes inspired by Upstate landmarks like the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“Every hole represents a different place, a special part of the community in the museum,” Cappello says. “We love seeing kids and their parents engaging together as they learn about the game of golf and various STEM concepts.”
Now in its 12th year, TCMU serves Upstate families from two locations — downtown Greenville and downtown Spartanburg. The downtown Greenville site includes multiple exhibit galleries and offers programs in the areas of arts, humanities, sciences, health, nutrition and the environment, suitable for children of all ages. The downtown Spartanburg location offers two floors of exhibits and programs designed for children ages 6 and under.
In May 2020, the Community Foundation of Greenville awarded TCMU an unrestricted grant of $25,000 from the Margaret Linder Southern Endowment Fund.
“The Community Foundation has supported The Children’s Museum of the Upstate from the time a small group of volunteers decided to create an outstanding educational facility that reaches into neighborhoods and classrooms across the Upstate,” says Bob Morris, CFG president.
Lauren Luneckas, TCMU board chair, expressed gratitude for the grant.
“This grant enabled the talented TCMU staff to develop and deliver a variety of dynamic STEAM program offerings, while also ensuring the museum continues to provide a safe and exciting environment in which young minds can flourish through learning and play,” Luneckas says. “It is an honor to have been selected for this grant, and we are touched to be a part of Ms. Southern’s legacy of support for early childhood education.”
For more information, visit https://www.tcmupstate.org/.