The Chicago Children’s Museum was founded in response to slashed art programming. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis started in a local mansion with gifts from women and children.
The Children’s Museum of South Bend will tell a story of an inspired team of mothers and educators who began working in 2018 to bring a STEAM (science, technology, education, art, and math) based children’s museum to the area. There were plenty of reasons to open a STEAM-based children’s museum in South Bend. Engaging, hands-on play is critical for developing minds, and most cities of South Bend’s size have had large, well-loved children’s museums for years. This team of women decided to undertake the project after Emilie Utigard and her husband Mark lost their 5-year-old son, Finn, to flu complications back in March of 2018. A museum was a proposed way to memorialize Finn and make the type of impact in the world that he would have himself.
Meetings began in July of 2018 that invited members of the community to offer their suggestions and ideas for the museum. In the two and a half years since, they have formed a board, received 501c3 Nonprofit status, found a location at 2632 S. Michigan St., and taken the input they’ve received from the community to build out a space filled with interactive exhibits designed to help spark curiosity, nurture creativity, and encourage a lifelong love of learning through open-ended play. They now find themselves at Phase I of a three-phase plan, which has only been slowed by their caution for COVID.
The museum team plans a limited opening as soon as the COVID surge is under control, but will wait until the pandemic ends for their grand opening. In the meantime, they will hold a holiday market fundraiser this Saturday, December 19 from 1-4. They’re inviting people to come by the museum’s location and peek inside at the progress that has been made, shop locally made items to fundraise for the museum, and begin buying VIP Memberships for $70 each. You’ll be able to use the membership immediately upon the soft opening, but the 1-year countdown won’t begin until the grand opening, so you’ll get bonus time! This January, the museum will begin considering reservations for private events and offering day passes to individual families while waiting for the right time to officially open to the public.
Emilie and her team view the museum as a lifelong project and something that will positively impact the community for generations beyond. Currently, Phase I of their strategy will enable them to begin to offer activities and programming to children at an accessible location and to foster partnerships with other local organizations and community groups while growing towards Phase II and III, in which they will offer significantly more space & professionally designed exhibits. Just as they began, it will take a community effort for the Children’s Museum of South Bend to serve its purpose. They are asking for volunteers, donations, suggestions, shares, and anything that can help them fulfill their mission to foster meaningful learning & growth for our children and families. For more information or to get involved, please contact the museum through their facebook page or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here are pictures of some of the museum's exhibits. Credits to Rachael Mercado Photography:
Learn about all their exhibits and stay up to date with the Children's Museum of South Bend at their Facebook Page!