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Museum looks to “Fly into the Future” with Redesign Project

WVM Fly Poster 1 v4Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center Director Sandy Cohen unveiled an ambitious vision of transforming museum exhibits during an event honoring a generous donation by Jim and Karen Russell.

Wednesday’s launch of the “Fly Into the Future” campaign was the first glimpse of big plans for the future of the museum and its role as a community educator and keeper of the Wenatchee Valley’s historical narrative. The $22,000 Russell donation pays for the first step in that process: to produce professional renderings of future exhibits.

“We have an epic story to tell,” Cohen said. “The scope of the ice age floods, the interesting historical characters and the beautiful landscape provide the ingredients for an amazing narrative. We want to share this with our community and the rest of the world.”

Cohen’s revitalizing vision includes state-of-the-art, modern exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities for all ages that showcase our region’s history, both the ancient and recent, with real-time experiential learning.

The Russells have embraced this vision.

“Karen is more than just a dedicated patron of the museum. She has been instrumental in bringing new talent to the staff and board, and in raising the image and presence of the museum in our community,” Cohen said. “Jim’s passion and excitement for what our museum can achieve has brought us great motivation for taking the next important steps. Because of Jim and Karen’s generosity and pioneering spirit, we are producing a series of visuals that will showcase the redesign plan, which we know will generate tremendous excitement and support in the community.”

Karen Russell is the museum’s board president. Jim Russell served as interim director of the museum during the search for a permanent director. During that time, he encouraged the museum’s role in the monumental Wildfire Summit in 2015 and supported the team as it developed an exceptional exhibit and education program. The Wildfire programming brought more than 3,400 students to Squilchuck State Park and the museum to learn about wildfire and our region’s ecology.

“Jim and Karen both understand the importance of telling our community story both inside and outside the walls of this building,” said museum education director Selina Danko. “Our hope is that we can inspire museum visitors to take what they learn in our exhibits with them as they explore our community and our beautiful wildlands.”

Cohen, who has been with the museum for almost a year, comes with a wealth of experience in museum management. His leadership has led to the development of several new programs at the museum designed to boost capacity including working with the City of Wenatchee to establish MAKERSPACE Wenatchee in the museum’s basement. This program is now home to a thriving robotics club and after school program led by Karen Rutherford.

Kuntz with Russells

Mayor Frank Kuntz joins Jim & Karen Russell during the “Fly into the Future” campaign to honor the Russell’s generous donation.

The event honoring the Russells was attended by the mayors of East Wenatchee and Wenatchee, another sign of how the institution is striving to become the storyteller for the entire region, not just Wenatchee.

”We expect this redesign will have a direct impact on increasing tourism in the area,” Cohen said. “It will have a positive impact on local education opportunities, as well as provide an engaging and attractive space for community activities.”

WVMCC is an important part of the supplementary education for our children, serving thousands of students in education programs throughout our valley. Highlights include:

    • 3,400 students participated in the Wildfire & Us educational programming
    • 700 5th graders participate each year in the Beauty of Bronze collaboration with Art on the Avenues and Wenatchee School District, Wenatchee Art Education Consortium (an affiliate of the museum) and Washington State Arts Commission.
    • Youth on the Columbia, in partnership with Confluence Health and Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club, each spring and fall, has served more than 10,000 students
    • This past spring break, thanks to MAKERSPACE Wenatchee, the Museum had 90 students enrolled in programming, in comparison to 15 in previous years.
    • Super Summer Adventures has grown steadily each year, accommodating 600 students each year, as a summer enrichment program combining arts, science, and technology.
    • Our maker’s space, which was established with generous support of the City of Wenatchee, is now fully stocked and functioning as a drop-in space for creativity and hands-on learning.
    • Our children’s arts classes give kids the tools and skills to dive into art and master their own style and creations.

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