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SPRINGFIELD Springfield Museums is introducing Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper, a temporary exhibit available to view from June 11 to September 4 in the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Washi Transformed will be featured in Springfield as part of one of five stops of a national tour organized by Meher Arthur, the art and cultural director of Japan House, Los Angeles.  

This exhibit demonstrates the transformation of a traditional medium into contemporary art. The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts has an existing collection of Japanese prints, many of which are printed on washi. 

“The abstraction presented in Washi Transformed is a marked contrast to the romantic realism of our collection items,” said Heather Haskell-Burns, Vice President of the Springfield Museums and Director of the Art Museums. “Washi Transformed helps us explore the vitality and evolution of an art lineage deeply rooted in history.” 

Washi Transformed includes works from nine Japanese artists, presenting more than 30 highly textured two-dimensional works, expressive sculptures, and installations that explore this traditional medium — some of which so large that Springfield Museums had to come up with new approaches to installation. 

“The contemporary artists who created these pieces use washi in expressive and innovative ways that will captivate all who experience them,” said Maggie North, curator of art for the Springfield Museums.  “We are overjoyed to share the extraordinary, visionary creations in this exhibition with our visitors.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums announced that Jenny Powers has been named director of the Springfield Science Museum. A science educator for 20 years and the family engagement coordinator for the Springfield Museums for six years, Powers is ready to take her knowledge of playful learning to the Science Museum in the form of interactive, immersive additions to the museum. She also takes inspiration from the last woman who directed the Science Museum, Grace Pettis Johnson, who led the way from 1910 to 1949.

Powers’ dynamic programing has filled the Museums on family-engagement days with exciting features such as bubble parties, high-fives with the Cat in the Hat, and Mount Crumpit derbies during Grinchmas. She has also been a regular guest on WWLP’s Mass Appeal, sharing hands-on science that families could explore together at home.

“The opportunity the Museums have to help our visitors expand their worlds with science is so important,” Powers said. “What makes our museum especially vital is that people of all ages can explore ideas together, teaching and learning from each other. Our museum can offer fun, entertaining information that will be helpful in the real world.

“I love that the Science Museum offers visitors chances for simple, positive interactions. This is when the most important learning happens,” she went on. “By ensuring that the science we present is relevant to our visitors’ lives, we can deepen their museum experience and know that they can use science to improve their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Powers said her overall vision is to always present the most up-to-date science. What this means is adding stations throughout the museums that are easy to change and update. “We want to be nimble because science changes as researchers look, discover, and understand more. We want to be a science museum that is relevant today and into the future — and we want to be fun.”

For Powers, fun means not only entertaining, but also barrier-free. “We want to make sure that every visitor feels welcome by including diverse stories and accessible spaces.”

Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums, noted that “Jenny excels at engagement. As we move the museums forward as relevant, inspiring, interactive spaces, we could not have a better leader than Jenny, who makes science understandable, exciting, and accessible for all people whether they are new to the subject or experts. Jenny is highly knowledgeable about current museum practices, innovative in her approaches to education, and she is passionate about inclusion. She is just the visionary leader we need to bring our beloved Science Museum into the 21st century and beyond.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums announced the receipt of a $750,000 federal earmark in support of upgrading the Springfield Science Museum.

“The funded project is called Equitable Access to the Night Sky,” said Jenny Powers, director of the Science Museum. “And it is going to be a game changer for the Museums, our community, and our region.”

The public announcement of this federal earmark underscored the united effort to secure these funds by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Museums staff learned about the federal earmark from Markey’s office.

“The federal funds will help us leap into the 21st century,” Powers said.

The Science Museum is already evolving at a fast pace. In 2019, the Museums added the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, a hands-on innovation space facilitated by a science educator, the only Spark!Lab in the Northeast. In 2021, the staff renovated the Seymour Planetarium, upgrading seating and refurbishing the historic star ball. Projected to open in June 2022, the International Space Station gallery will spotlight STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning with a series of interactive stations that mimic those in the space station orbiting our planet. All these changes are helping the Science Museum take huge strides toward the vision of being an essential, informal STEM-learning hub for this region.

As part of a three-year strategic plan, the Museums are prioritizing relevance, diversity, inclusion, equity, and access. “The Science Museum must respond to community interest. We must provide relevant opportunities that draw everyone into the new, tech-savvy, multi-dimensional world,” Powers said. “This money will help us bridge equity and access gaps. We are already a beloved institution; we will have an even greater impact as a public asset with the upgrades this money will provide.”

Plans for improvement include a full-dome, digital projection system with state-of-the-art software for the planetarium to augment the historical star ball and add multi-cultural perspectives to the night sky; digitization of the observatory to allow full access to the stars for anyone, anywhere via online projection; and tactile, multi-sensory astronomy exhibits for visitors who are blind or have low vision.

“Regional educators, students, community partners, and user experts have helped us identify flexible, essential, inclusive educational technology,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education for the Springfield Museums. “The recent upgrades to our science workshop include accommodations for students with special needs and systems for remote access. These changes are increasing our ability to impact a wider audience than ever before.”

For more than 160 years, the Science Museum has nurtured curiosity, fueled discovery, and transformed lives, said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “The Museums provide opportunities — joyful, exciting, and relevant opportunities. These funds will support new pathways to wonder for visitors of all ages and provide inclusive, impactful museum experiences with 21st-century technologies. Plus, our newly upgraded museum will be a dynamic driver of visitation to Western Massachusetts.”

Markey noted that “this federal funding for Massachusetts means we can initiate, strengthen, and expand community-based projects that serve our families, businesses, and cities and towns every day. These projects will spur our economy, strengthen our resiliency, expand access to important healthcare, promote clean energy and climate solutions, and help feed and house our most vulnerable in every region of our Commonwealth. I am proud that my delegation partners and I were able to secure this critical funding, and I will continue to fight for the resources Massachusetts communities need to thrive and grow.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums announced a call for nominations for the 31th annual Ubora Award and the 12th annual Ahadi Youth Award. These prestigious awards, conferred by the African Hall Subcommittee, honor African-American people from Greater Springfield who have — above and beyond — demonstrated commitment to the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts.

The African Hall Subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The nomination deadline for both awards is Thursday, March 31.

True to the Swahili word that comprises its name, the Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. In 2021, the Ubora Award was given to Robert “Cee” Jackson as an exemplary philanthropist and humanitarian.

Named for the Swahili word for promise, the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12. In 2021, the Ahadi Award honored Tigist Dawit Terefe for her remarkable civic-minded volunteerism and outstanding academic record.

The Ubora and Ahadi awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in September. Nominations forms can be downloaded by visiting springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. Nominations may be e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, c/o Karen Fisk, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums announced that Emilie Czupryna has joined the staff as director of Development.

Czupryna arrives in her new role ready to build a strong development team as the Museums focus on their new strategic plan, which includes the objective of long-term fiscal sustainability.

“Emilie is poised to help the Museums in so many ways,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “We are constructing a dynamic road map for our future, and institutional advancement is an essential part of our success. We have confidence that Emilie will lead a strong team in our Development Office and build the scaffolding we need to keep our Museums vibrant and ready to meet our community’s needs.”

Czupryna worked her way quickly up the ladder at UMass Amherst. She began her career as assistant director of External Affairs for Communication & Events, and was promoted to associate director of College Events. In 2017, she was selected for the position of assistant director of Development and in 2018 was promoted to associate director of Development.

“I am thrilled to be working with such a wonderful team here at the Springfield Museums,” Czupryna said. “I look forward to enhancing the vision and strategic goals of the Museums through individual philanthropic support and corporate partnerships.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums, the Springfield Cultural Partnership, Mayor Domenic Sarno, the Springfield Parks and Recreation Department, and the Springfield Business Improvement District will present a Meet the Artist event today, Nov. 17, at 2:15 p.m. in the newly renovated Pynchon Plaza. The event, which is free and open to all, will include entertainment by Community Music School of Springfield.

Two years ago, in December 2019, the Springfield Museums and the Springfield Cultural Partnership sent out a call for public art that would transform Pynchon Plaza into a dynamic museum without walls, a vibrant public space with innovative multi-media art installations by local artists. Now it is time to celebrate the artists whose work has been funded by the SPark! Igniting Our Community project.

Nine projects inspired by Springfield’s people, cultures, places, and historical legacies will be installed over the next six months. This event will be an opportunity to talk directly with the artists to learn more about their plans.

The artists/entities are Roberley Bell of Pelham (artful seating), Lauren Celini of Springfield (utility art), Michelle Falcón Fontánez of Boston (mosaic art), Alvilda Sophia Anaya-Alegría of Springfield (mosaic art), Beth Crawford of Haydenville (3D sculptural art), Jeffrey Lara of Springfield (3D sculptural art), Make-It Springfield (library box), Ryan Murray of Springfield (fencing art), and Rosemary Tracy Woods of Art for the Soul Gallery in Springfield (fencing art).

These works will also be joined by a sound sculpture created by Outdoor Musical Instruments from the U.K. This sound sculpture will be assembled and embellished by a Springfield carpenter and artist.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums will present “True Stories and Tall Tales of the Springfield Quadrangle” on Saturday, Oct. 23, with tours starting at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The cost is $10 for the general public and $3 for members of the Springfield Museums.

During this outdoor-only event, museum staff will present famous, mysterious, and sometimes-true stories of the Quadrangle and the five museums on the Springfield Museums campus.

“One of your guides is trustworthy and knowledgeable, and will stick to the well-documented history of the museums,” said Jenny Powers, family engagement coordinator. “Beware what you hear from your other guide; she may make up some stories along the way.”

Tour participants will learn about the museums’ origins, their first collections, and the dreams that made the Springfield Museums a reality today, as well as interesting facts about each building — and a few tall tales to share while trick-or-treating on Halloween.

“Sharing stories is one of the most enjoyable ways we have to connect with one another and with our surroundings,” said Clarissa Leverich, membership coordinator. “And, well, most people do love a tall tale, especially with lots of embellishment.”

Each participant will receive a souvenir flashlight to bring along on the tour. This program is recommended for visitors 10 and up.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums will welcome U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Small Business Administration District Office Director Robert Nelson to the Quadrangle green today, Oct. 7, at 3 p.m. to announce a $1,200,000 Shuttered Venue Operator Grant (SVOG) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The public is welcome to attend the public announcement of this grant.

As part of the American Rescue Plan, the SVOG program provided more than $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues and was administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Springfield Museums shut its doors for four months, the first time this has happened in its 164-year history.

“As a beloved community anchor and an important informal-learning hub, we were overjoyed to reopen in July 2020,” Springfield Museums President Kay Simpson said. “Our visitors make our museums alive with energy and potential, and we are so glad to have them back in our buildings. We are deeply grateful for the funds provided by the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, which will help us make up for the lost time during that four-month period.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Springfield Museums will postpone the 30th annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award ceremony, originally slated for Saturday, Sept. 18, until further notice.

“We would very much like to meet in person for this celebration,” said Gwen Miller, chair of the African Hall Subcommittee, which confers these prestigious awards. “We had a wonderful experience with a virtual award ceremony last year, but we are going to hold on until we can have a social gathering in person.”

The winners of the 2021 Ubora and Ahadi Youth awards for African-Americans with exemplary leadership in Springfield are Robert “Cee” Jackson and Tigist Dawit Terefe.

The African Hall Subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The group has administered this annual award since 1992.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums will present Sensory Friendly Saturdays on the second Saturday of each month from 9 to 11 a.m., starting May 8. Sensory Friendly Saturdays provide less noise, dimmer light, and cool-down spaces for those who have sensory sensitivity.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum and the Springfield Science Museum will open early, with some exhibits modified to provide an opportunity for people with a range of differing abilities to experience what the museums have to offer. Trained staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and, if necessary, direct visitors to a quiet space that provides a chance to cool down and take a break. Sensory-friendly crafts for all ages will be available in the Cat’s Corner.

Parents and caregivers must stay with their children at all times. The modifications are enabled until 11 a.m. Preview guides are available for those who would like to explore what to expect before arriving at the museums.

If visitors find the Museums too overwhelming and need to leave before 10 a.m., the Welcome Center staff will give the family a voucher to try again on another Sensory Friendly Saturday.

The Springfield Museums became universal-participation-designated two years ago as part of a Massachusetts Cultural Council program to help museums, theaters, and other cultural organizations pay particular attention to ensuring their programming is accessible to all people.

“We learned so much during the Mass Cultural Council training and met so many helpful people as they visited our museums to help us assess where we could do better,” said Heather Cahill, director of Development for the Museums. “We wanted to put as many improvements into place as possible right away while we continued to work on our long-range plans.

“One of our user-expert visitors had sensory sensitivity and explained that having space with less movement and less noise was very helpful to her comfort in a new place,” Cahill added. “We knew we could offer this space right away if we opened the museums a little earlier, especially for those who would like to have this experience.”

The staff created preview guides for families to read together before visiting the museums and made decisions about which exhibits they could modify to be more friendly to visitors with sensitivity to noise, lights, and movement. Laura Sutter, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss education coordinator, oversees the Cat’s Corner, a hands-on creativity space in the Seuss museum. Sutter created age-appropriate crafts and literacy activities especially for sensory-sensitive children. “We know that any change we make for a specific group of people often benefits all of our visitors,” she said. “My goal is to make all of our visitors feel welcome in the Cat’s Corner through the types of activities we offer.”

“We want to make our museums accessible and relevant to all visitors,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of Springfield Museums. “Our vision is to have every visitor say, ‘wow, they thought of everything!’”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The African Hall Committee of the Springfield Museums announced its annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award winners. Now in its 30th year of celebrating leadership by people of African heritage, the 2021 Ubora Award honors Robert Cee Jackson as an exemplary philanthropist and humanitarian. The 12th Ahadi Youth Award honors the remarkable energy and intent of Tigist Dawit Terefe, a junior at the High School of Science & Technology.

Robert Cee Jackson

As president of Jackson Security and Jackson Transportation, Jackson employs many community members and negotiates fees to help make his services affordable to all. As vice president of the African-American philanthropic organization the Brethren Community Foundation, he helps neighborhood youth with projects such as staging a celebration of Juneteenth that showcased remarkable community talent and providing college scholarships for youth.

Jackson’s community-minded leadership also includes the Urban League board of directors and the Springfield Partners for Community Action board of directors. In addition, he is an active member and distinguished leader of the Masonic Order.

For decades, Jackson has helped at the Stone Soul Festival, which is recognized as one of New England’s largest African-American festivals. He was a co-founder of the 5A football program, which is now called Springfield Youth Athletics. Its mission is to provide activities and opportunities for young people, regardless of race, religion, or economic status, in the urban Springfield community and surrounding area.

He volunteers with the Old Hill Neighborhood Council, which is dedicated to serving the needs and concerns of community members. And he was appointed in 2008 by Mayor Domenic Sarno to serve as a commissioner of the Community Police Hearing Board.

“This is such an unexpected surprise,” Jackson said. “I am honored to be the recipient of the 30th Ubora Award. The volunteer service that I do is because of my commitment to and love for my community. This is a prestigious award, and I am humbled and grateful to the African Hall Committee, Springfield Museums, and all involved in this honor.”

Tigist Dawit Terefe

Terefe maintains top grades while also pursuing difficult coursework, including advanced-placement classes. She has taken advantage of dual-enrollment opportunities with Springfield Technical Community College to earn college credits as well as the After Dark Vocational Program with Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, which allows her to graduate with both her high-school diploma and as a certified nurse assistant.

Terefe also works part-time at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, as an intern in the cancer-research lab, and looks forward to going into cancer biomedical research in the future. She participates in the Baystate Educational Partnership to expand her insight into the medical world. She is also one of the founders of the first-ever Springfield Leadership Advisory Council, which will work to connect students of Springfield public schools with district leaders.

Terefe is a member of District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s Youth Advisory Board, which addresses issues facing today’s teens, researches effective prevention strategies, and works to give youth and residents in the City of Springfield a more powerful voice to make positive change. She is a tutor to other Youth Advisory Board members and leads the inclusion committee, which has created a series of podcasts to give insight on how people could be more inclusive, and what they have experienced as students in Hampden County.

“I am overjoyed to have received the Ahadi Award,” Terefe said. “I have always found people with an interest in their community impressive, and have worked in my academic ventures to do the same. I love working on topics of equity and inclusivity in the Springfield community and generally. I thank the committee for selecting me, and I thank my guidance counselor, Ms. [Amy] Quinlan, for nominating me. I hope I represent the award well throughout and after my high-school career.”

The Ubora Award and the Ahadi Youth Award are awarded to African-Americans from Greater Springfield who have demonstrated commitment, above and beyond, to the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts.

Women in Businesss

Progress Report

By Janine Fondon

On March 8 (International Women’s Day), the 2021 On the Move Forum to Advance Women, presented by Bay Path University, Springfield Museums, and a host of local organizations, virtually hosted some 200 women of all backgrounds from Western Mass. and beyond. Through conversations and speakers, women voiced their hopes and elevated their concerns to support the future success of women in leadership at all levels.

Speakers noted there is much work to be done to change the trajectory of women in companies and organizations, given that women still operate in a world where they are paid less than men. Also, women have limited leadership opportunities in the C-suite and have experienced workplace challenges in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Also, black women and Latinas still make less than anyone in the workforce, and their opportunities for promotions are certainly limited. Where do we go from here?

The forum theme, “Women in Leadership: This Is What Change Looks Like — Past, Present, and Future,” offered attendees an inter-generational, cross-cultural, gender-inclusive, and history-infused conversation focused on advancing women, led by moderator Nikai Fondon.

The event presented voices and content that showed what change could look like — young, diverse, professional women on the move to create a new world; experienced leaders of all backgrounds who share their expertise; and college-aged women exploring new skills. Now in its fifth year, the event has engaged more than 1,000 women in community conversations and presentations on women’s history, empowerment, and advancement.

“The numbers also show us that change needs to happen to build more inclusive workplaces at all levels and in all industries. We must keep watch that our colleges and universities understand the magnitude of not only recruitment and retention, but belonging and mentoring.”

This year’s event aligned with the priority theme of the 65th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” According to Catalyst, “in 2020, women of color represented only 18% of entry-level positions, and few advanced to leadership positions. While white women held almost one-third (32.8%) of total management positions in the U.S. in 2020, Asian women (2.2%), black women (4.1%), and Hispanic women (4.5%) held a much smaller share.”

During the forum, the speakers and participants during the conversations voiced the sentiments expressed in these statistics. Most women still face obstacles in moving up the ladder at work. These statistics remind us that young women professionals who are rising to new opportunities in industry may have to pick up the path of experienced women today who still fight these trends after more than 20 years.

The numbers also show us that change needs to happen to build more inclusive workplaces at all levels and in all industries. We must keep watch that our colleges and universities understand the magnitude of not only recruitment and retention, but belonging and mentoring.

Also, as black women, Latinas, and women of color climb the ladder of success, they find that every step along the way may not come with the support they need or expect. A study conducted by Lean In and SurveyMonkey finds that, although more than 80% of white employees view themselves as allies to women of color at work, just 45% of black women and 55% of Latinas say they have strong allies in the workplace. There is more work to be done to build relationships that drive trust and transformation in the workplace, and more conversations need to confirm informal and formal sources of support.

 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To help make a change in the workplace, educational institutions, companies, and organizations continue to underscore the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. While these efforts allow for some change, we need strategic approaches to systemic racism and inequities that address issues for companies and individuals. Many young professionals, consumers, and communities are at the forefront of social justice, so shifts in social responsibility, outreach, and accountability could drive change on many levels.

Bay Path President Sandra Doran noted in her speech that she has been committed to the advancement of women and the power of education. “I embrace these beliefs because I come from a family of educators and strong women. I have witnessed first-hand the power of higher education for women. My grandmother attended Barnard, a women’s college, and my mother returned to school to earn her degree at a women’s college as an adult learner. With such personal role models, I felt called to be the president of Bay Path.”

However, noting the effects of COVID-19, she noted that, “by now, we all know the burden of the pandemic fell harder on women than on men. Women make up the majority of front-line workers in deeply affected industries like retail, food service, hospitality, and healthcare, and also picked up a disproportionate share of the additional loads of schoolwork, housework, and elderly care. Black women have faced the highest rate of unemployment among women at 8.9%, followed by Latinx women at 8.5%. This pandemic has uncovered the fragility of our systems, from healthcare to daycare to education, and it is our calling, women — and men of substance — to create change. And the pipeline of women in leadership positions has shrunk.”

“As we move past International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, there must be even more commitment to revisiting practices in workplaces, classrooms, boardrooms, meeting places, and Zoom rooms to deliver equity, belonging, and dismantling ‘isms.’”

Doran also referenced an IBM study that “noted how women on corporate boards and in C-suites around the world have made no progress since 2019, when IBM did its first study on the subject.”

Another report, the 2020 Women in the Workplace study, conducted in partnership with Lean In and McKinsey, tracked the progress of women in corporate America. The data set reflects contributions from 317 companies that participated in the study and more than 40,000 people. According to the report, “the boundaries between work and home have blurred, and women, in particular, have been negatively impacted.”

In the study, women of color were noted as particularly impacted by COVID. “Women — especially women of color — are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security. Meanwhile, black women already faced more barriers to advancement than most other employees. This is an emergency for corporate America. Companies risk losing women in leadership — and future women leaders — and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity.”

 

Adverse Impact on Black Women and Latinas

While many black women and Latinas have made strides and found success in corporations and organizations, far too many remain underutilized, left behind, not included, and overlooked for opportunities. The numbers document their trajectory in a world where, in most cases, they are paid less than everyone else. Also, according to a report by CNBC, “employment for black women is 9.7% lower than it was in February 2020. Employment for white men, white women, and black men is down 5%, 5.4%, and 5.9%, respectively.”

A report by Lean In also confirms the experiences of black women in the workplace, noting that black women are significantly underrepresented in leadership roles, much less likely to be promoted to manager (and their representation dwindles from there), more likely to see their successes discounted, and less likely to get the support and access they need to advance. In addition, black women face more day-to-day discrimination at work. They want to lead — and they are motivated to improve their workplaces — but often find themselves unfairly penalized for being ambitious.

These findings should cause us all to pause and revisit our workplace policies, practices, and procedures. While not every black woman may have these experiences, other personal scenarios that they face result in negative trends. Most of all, these findings should prompt us to think about how everyone is treated in the workplace and how we treat each other. Most of all, we should consider how we can understand what others feel and find ways to communicate. If we were all treating each other as ourselves, we would not have these trends.

 

LGBTQIA+ Equality

While many communities and individuals experience an uncertain landscape in the workplace, we must continue to stay vigilant about trends that impact inclusion. For LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer, queer, intersex, agender, asexual, and other queer-identifying) communities, the journey to equality continues to “ebb and flow,” as Kathleen Martin of Springfield College and her wife, Andrea Hickson Martin of Bay Path University, noted:

“There is no doubt that there have been tremendous strides over the past decade for LGBTQIA+ equality. In 2012, the Obama administration supported marriage equality. In 2015, in the Supreme Court of the United States case Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage equality was made federal law, paving the way for our marriage in 2017. In 2019, Congress approved a comprehensive LGBTQIA+ civil-rights bill, providing non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQIA+ community in employment, housing, public spaces, education, jury service, credit, and federal funding. During the Trump administration, however, LGBTQIA+ rights were rolled back through a ban on transgender military service, the appointment of anti-LGBTQIA+ judges at various levels of the judicial system, the rolling back of the Obama-era Civil Rights Act protecting transgender and non-binary workers from employment discrimination, and the rescinding of Title IX rules requiring schools, including colleges and universities, to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

“As with everything in life, there is a constant ebb and flow,” Martin and Hickson continued. “On the first day of the Biden-Harris administration, President Biden signed an executive order preventing and combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, reinstating the LGBTQIA+ protections the Trump administration removed. More recently, the administration has directed the Department of Education to ‘review all of its existing regulations, orders, guidance, and policies to ensure consistency with the Biden-Harris administration’s policy that students be guaranteed education free from sexual violence.’ This includes an evaluation of the Title IX burden of proof issued under the previous administration.”

As stated, the ebb and flow of policy continue to take us away from setting a more consistent, inclusive world and workplace where all people can succeed.

As we move past International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, there must be even more commitment to revisiting practices in workplaces, classrooms, boardrooms, meeting places, and Zoom rooms to deliver equity, belonging, and dismantling ‘isms.’ Also, we must begin to employ new ways for engaging, recognizing, and retaining black women, Latinas, and women of color who are still hidden in plain view.

 

Janine Fondon is a writer, speaker, assistant professor, and chair of Undergraduate Communications at Bay Path University. She is a frequent contributor to publications and media outlets on the topics of social justice, women’s history, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She recently curated and produced an exhibit and series of public events at Springfield Museums, called “Voices of Resilience: The Intersection of Women on the Move.” She was named a 2020 Difference Maker by BusinessWest, a 2020 Pynchon Award winner, and one of the top African-American female professors in 2018 by the African American Female Professors Assoc.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums is seeking nominations for the annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award. These prestigious awards — conferred by the African Hall Subcommittee — are awarded to African-American people from Greater Springfield who have gone above and beyond in demonstrating commitment to the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts.

The nomination deadline for both awards is March 31. The Ubora and Ahadi awards will be presented at a ceremony at the Springfield Museums in the fall.

True to the Swahili word that comprises its name, the Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. In 2020, the Ubora Award was given to Rep. Bud Williams.

Named for the Swahili word for promise, the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12. In 2020, the Ahadi Award was given to Kareem Wedderburn.

The African Hall Subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The group has administered this annual award since 1992. A full list of the awardees can be found on the Springfield Museums website.

Nomination forms can be downloaded by visiting springfieldmuseums.org/ubora. Nominations may be e-mailed to [email protected] or mailed to African Hall Subcommittee, c/o Valerie Cavagni, Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01103.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Thanks to funding from MEFA and the U.Fund College Investing Plan, Springfield Museums are distributing 495 literacy activity kits to children throughout Springfield and beyond. Ten programs — including the Gray House, Home City Families, Raising a Reader, and Head Start — will benefit.

The literacy activity kits contain a consumable activity, a reusable building toy, colored pencils, a Dr. Seuss clipboard, and an early-reader book: Dr. Seuss’s ABC. Family Engagement Coordinator Jenny Powers, who worked together with her team to assemble the kits, noted that “we wanted to offer activities that help build reading and science literacy which a child could engage on their own. We are hopeful the kits will help provide caregivers with time to prepare other activities or take a short break.”

With new COVID-19 protocols in mind, Powers’ team provided an activity kit that a child can use on their own, in their own space. “Since each child has the same materials, they can talk about what they are doing with each other, without needing to share.”

Springfield Museums are committed to helping children and their caregivers explore literacy in its many forms — literary, science, historical, art — while also having fun.

“We come from a city that brought us Milton Bradley and Dr. Seuss, who both believed in the power of learning while playing,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education. “Entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, writers, thinkers throughout our history have explored myriad ways to become literate — able to communicate fluently in a variety of disciplines — and we are excited to help continue that exploration.”

The museums have tripled their hands-on learning spaces over the past few years. The Art Discovery Center, the Cat’s Corner, and Spark!Lab are all spaces for people to engage in hands-on learning to gain skills and build competency in a variety of subjects. Since the onset of the pandemic, the museums also worked to share activity kits so that those unable to visit in person could still have access to learning.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums announced the winners of the 29th Ubora and 11th Ahadi award winners: state Rep. Bud Williams and Kareem Wedderburn. The award ceremony will be held virtually on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The cost is $25 per household. To register, click here or call (413) 263-6800, ext. 325.

The awards are conferred each year by the African Hall subcommittee to African-American people from Greater Springfield who have demonstrated significant commitment to community service, education, science, humanities and/or the arts. The Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. The Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African-American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community.

First elected to Springfield City Council in 1993, Williams, the Ubora Award winner, is also a member of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.

“His fight to keep banking services in our community has been a true blessing to the entire community. Mr. Williams works hard to make Springfield a safe and good community for all of us living in the city. He is an advocate with a heart of gold,” said nominator Mary Moore.

Williams was instrumental in stopping TD Bank from closing the Mason Square bank branch — a closure that would have negatively impacted poor and underserved residents, particularly senior patrons. “He is a champion for justice,” said nominator Mary Worthy.

Williams’s fight to address the injustices of subpar housing and support for displaced residents of Bergen Circle housing complex is another example of his work on behalf of the community. He assisted the elderly, provided transportation, and made certain that residents were treated with dignity as they sought out shelter and other services. “Bud works tirelessly on behalf of the entire Springfield community as he addresses issues that may negatively affect the health of the community. He is unafraid to speak out in the face of adversity for the betterment of the community at large,” said nominator Robert Cee Jackson.

Wedderburn was nominated by John Szymczyk, a counselor at Springfield Central High School. One of seven close-knit siblings raised by their mother, Wedderburn challenged himself throughout his high-school career with advanced-placement course work, leadership in school theater productions, and a pivotal Upward Bound (UB) program in social justice. Upward Bound’s mission is to enable first-generation and low-income students to succeed in high school and enroll in college. The program also has a significant social-justice element.

“UB’s social-justice program has allowed me to have productive dialogue on a variety of current issues, developed me as an activist, and in general made me more aware of the struggles that black people and other oppressed groups face,” he said.

Wedderburn became passionate about public transit when he started taking the PVTA to school every day. Since then he has studied, written about, and photographed transit as a hobby, and has also made it his career focus. Currently, he is a freshman at Westfield State University, majoring in regional planning.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums issued a community call for portraits that will result in the exhibit “This Is Us: Regional Portraiture Today” at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts from Oct. 24 through April 4, 2021.

In conjunction with the exhibition “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today” (on view at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts from Oct. 3 through April 4), the Springfield Museums invite submission of original portraits by artists of all ages residing in the Connecticut River Valley and Hartford County, Conn.

“Since its opening in 1933, the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts has proudly showcased artworks by our exceptional community,” said Heather Haskell, director of Art Museums and vice president of the Springfield Museums. “We are especially excited about ‘This is Us: Regional Portraiture Today’ and look forward to sharing the submissions and backstories with our visitors.”

Artists are invited to use their own art materials, or to pick up a 16-by-20-inch canvas, free of charge, at the Museums’ Welcome Center during regular open hours. The Museums request only one submission per artist of a portrait created within the last two years. The Museums are especially interested in works that complement the themes explored in “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today,” including identity, human connection, and responses to the current political and social environment.

“Of any artwork, portraiture is the most personal, and in this time of social distancing, the show will provide all of us with the opportunity to ‘meet’ our neighbors through vicarious interaction,” Haskell said.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Museums are set to reopen to visitors today, July 13, with the first two hours each Monday, 10 a.m. to noon, set aside for seniors (60 and older) only, and the general public from noon to 5 p.m. The museums are open to everyone Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are overjoyed to welcome visitors back to the museums,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of Springfield Museums. “We have carefully prepared our museums for reopening with visitor and staff health and well-being as our priority. We want to provide an experience that is both reassuringly safe and wonderfully inspiring.”

The museums will open at 25% of their full capacity and will issue timed tickets to spread people out over the course of the day. “We urge our visitors to purchase their tickets online ahead of their visit,” said Sharon Ferrara, Welcome Center manager. Limited numbers will be allowed into the admissions area at a time, to help all keep socially distanced.

For additional well-being, the museums have added plexiglass shields and no-touch credit-card machines at the Welcome Center desk, Museum Store, and Blake House Café. They have also stepped up cleaning protocols, especially on high-touch surfaces. Most importantly, visitors are required to do their part in communal health and safety by wearing masks that cover their nose and mouth. Additionally, they are required to keep at social distance from people not in their party. Staff also are required to wear masks.

“Each of us plays a role in a safe reopening, with social distancing, face masks, and additional health and safety precautions in place,” Simpson said. “We are truly all in the same boat and pulling for each other.”

Educators in each of the museums’ facilitated spaces — the Cat’s Corner, the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, and the Art Discovery Center — are ready to greet visitors with new protocols as well. They have created single-use packets and set up activities that can be done at social distance, in addition to increased cleaning.

“Having families back at the museums, ready to celebrate this summer, will be such a great treat — and we are ready to make sure they have a great time,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education at the Springfield Museums.

For those comfortable with hands-on experiences, the museums have all interactive exhibits in place and have added more hand-sanitizing stations and more frequent cleaning by the staff. “We are encouraging visitors to sanitize their hands before and after they use an interactive,” Murray said.

For those who look forward to a low- or no-touch experience still informed by educators and curators, the museums have introduced a mobile guide available through visitors’ cell phones. “The guide includes virtual gallery tours and maps,” Murray said. “And it features interactive scavenger hunts that integrate learning with fun facts and beautiful images.”

The museums have also enhanced their cell-phone audio tours, adding more stations to the Science Museum, D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, and Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. The Seuss Museum audio tour is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

“For centuries, museums have offered a place of solace,” said Heather Haskell, vice president of the Springfield Museums and director of the Art Museums. “We are a place where people can be together with plenty of room for social distance while still enjoying an experience in community.”

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Museums hope to reopen to the public soon, in cooperation with Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase plan. The museums could begin welcoming visitors inside in early July in alignment with phase 3. Currently, visitors are welcome on the museums’ outdoors grounds.

Looking forward to reopening, the museums have been purchasing CDC-recommended cleaning supplies in abundance; adding plexiglass shields and no-touch credit card machines at the Welcome Center desk, Museum Store, and Blake House Café; increasing the signage for safety protocols, including wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent washing of hands; installing one-way traffic indicators for each museum and the Quadrangle green; and securing personal protective equipment for staff.

“The museums are working to ensure we offer a wonderful a museum experience, as our visitors have come to expect from our unique, multi-disciplinary museums,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “And we are putting into place protocols to help ensure visitor-experience is as safe as possible. Each of us plays a role in a safe reopening, with social distancing, face masks, and additional health and safety precautions in place.”

For those comfortable with hands-on experiences, the museums have all interactive exhibits in place and have added more hand-sanitizing stations and more frequent cleaning by the staff. Visitors will be encouraged to sanitize their hands before and after they use an interactive exhibit.

For those who look forward to a low- or no-touch experience still informed by educators and curators, the museums have introduced a mobile guide available through visitors’ smartphones. “The guide includes virtual gallery tours and maps,” said Larissa Murray, director of Education. “And it features interactive scavenger hunts that integrate learning with fun facts and beautiful images.”

The Museums have also enhanced smartphone audio tours, adding more stations to the Science Museum, D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, and Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum. The Seuss Museum audio tour is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

“We really miss everyone,” Murray said. “Having families back at the museums, ready to celebrate this summer, will be such a great treat. And we are ready to make sure they have a great time.”

Educators in each of the museums’ facilitated spaces — the Cat’s Corner, the Smithsonian Spark!Lab, and the Art Discovery Center — have created single-use packets and set up activities that can be done at social distance.

“For centuries, museums have offered a place of solace,” said Heather Haskell, vice president of the Springfield Museums and director of its art museums. “We are a place where people can be together with plenty of room for social distance while still enjoying an experience in community.”

COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — In response to the community health effort to slow and stem the spread of COVID-19, the Springfield Museums will be closed to the public March 14 through April 3. All public events, programs, classes, trips, and club meetings are canceled or postponed.

“The Museums’ leadership made this decision as a proactive and cautious response to help ensure the health and safety of our staff and volunteers, visitors, and community,” said Kay Simpson, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums.

During this time, all public gatherings at the Museums are cancelled or postponed. Refunds will be issued to visitors who have purchased tickets or registrations for events, programs, classes, or excursions. The Museums will continue to carefully monitor the situation and will share updates as they become available.

“While our doors are closed,” Simpson added, “activity in the Museums will continue as the staff prepares to reopen with new and exciting programming and exhibits for our visitors.”

Class of 2019 Difference Makers

Institution Has Mastered the Art and Science of Being Entrepreneurial

Kay Simpson, left, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums, with current board chair Kate Kane.

Kay Simpson, left, president and CEO of the Springfield Museums, with current board chair Kate Kane.

Kay Simpson says it wasn’t long after the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden opened to the public in 2002 when the Springfield Museums first considered creating a special license plate to commemorate Seuss — and his hometown of Springfield.

That effort didn’t really get very far, she told BusinessWest, adding that the process of getting the state to produce these specialty license plates — there are now almost 30 of them that help raise money for causes and institutions ranging from the Jimmy Fund to Blackstone Valley to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — was more involved then, and the thresholds to be met in terms of minimum numbers of subscribers were considerably higher. And 2002 was before the age of social media, when marketing such an effort was a much different proposition.

That was then.

With the opening in 2017 of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, which has drawn visitors from across the state and around the world, Simpson and others at the Springfield Museums believe that threshold can be far more easily reached.

“We have 130 people signed up, and we need 750 signed on before we can actually put the plates into production; we’re well on our way, and there is considerable interest,” she explained, adding that there will eventually be an auction at which individuals can bid on the low plate numbers bearing the Seuss imagery.

A Dr. Seuss specialty plate could yield perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the Museums over the next several years, said Simpson, but that windfall only begins to explain what the plate might mean for the institution and the City of Homes.

“It’s like a billboard, not just for the Museums, but for Springfield,” she told BusinessWest, in reference to the plate, which will bear an image of the most famous of all the Seuss characters, the Cat in the Hat. “The image says ‘seussinspringfield.org,’ which is our website, which tells the story of the Dr. Seuss museum, but it also celebrates Ted Geisel growing up in Springfield and all the connections he had to the city through his boyhood.

“This is not only going to be promoting the Quadrangle, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, and the sculpture garden, but the city of Springfield as well,” she went on. “People living across the state can get one of these license plates, but people living in Massachusetts drive to all kinds of locations throughout the country, so this is a way of promoting the Museums and the city nationwide.”

“People living across the state can get one of these license plates, but people living in Massachusetts drive to all kinds of locations throughout the country, so this is a way of promoting the Museums and the city nationwide.”

So, in essence, a specialty license plate will only further amplify the already profound impact the Springfield Museums have had on the city and this region since the first collections, housed then in the Springfield Library, went on view back in 1857.

In the ensuing 162 years, the Museums have been a source of culture, history, and pride for generations of area residents, and they have also brought people from far outside this region into Springfield, effectively putting the city on the map.

And with many recent additions, especially the Dr. Seuss Museum, which doubled the institution’s visitation numbers in the first year it was open, the Museums’ overall impact has increased tremendously.

To the point where the decision makers at BusinessWest are making the Museums part of the Difference Makers class of 2019, thus taking the recognition program to a different dimension.

The Quadrangle has certainly changed over the years.

The Quadrangle has certainly changed over the years. Above, the scene in the early ’70s when one could actually drive onto the property. Below, today the scene is dominated by trees and the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden.

Indeed, over the past decade, the program has recognized individuals, families, a host of nonprofits (from Girls Inc. to Big Brothers Big Sisters), some of the region’s institutions of higher learning (UMass Amherst and the area’s community colleges, to be specific), and even a corporation — MassMutual.

But a cultural institution? The Museums would be the first. But they have collectively been a Difference Maker from the very beginning. Lyman Wood, retired business owner, philanthropist, mentor to many young professionals, and long-time supporter of the Museums — he and late wife, Merrie, have their names on the Museum of Springfield History — put things in their proper perspective:

“The Museums put us on the map,” he said, adding that the Seuss museum has made the city and the region only more visible in that respect. “But it’s more than that. The Museums touch every aspect of people’s lives, from the arts to the science to the culture; it’s a focus point for everyone.”

Moving forward, as it strives to go on being this focus point, the Museums will continue a pattern of thinking and operating that Kate Kane, chair of the Museums’ board of directors, described simply as “being entrepreneurial.”

Examples of this entrepreneurial mindset abound, from the license-plate initiative to the recent purchase of property adjacent to the history museum on Chestnut Street with the goal of transforming it into another potential attraction and revenue stream; from new exhibits like the current offerings ToyTopia (an interactive look at the history of toys) in the history museum and Dinosaur Discoveries in the Science Museum, to new, lower-priced, often-Seuss-themed items in the museum store that have triggered huge increases.

At a time when many museums are struggling to lure visitors and make ends meet, the Springfield Museums are enjoying considerable momentum and looking toward an even brighter future.

In short, an institution that has always been a Difference Maker is poised to become even more of one in the years and decades to come.

Making History

As she talked about the Museums, their history, and their evolution over the years, Simpson said that, while the individual museums are architectural masterpieces and many of the items on display within them have been under the same glass — figuratively and in some cases literally — for 50 or 100 years or more, they are far from static.

“The Museums touch every aspect of people’s lives, from the arts to the science to the culture; it’s a focus point for everyone.”

Indeed, they must change with the times in order to stand the test of time, she said, pointing out, as just one example, the Art of Discovery Center on the second floor of the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, a 21st-century addition, if you will, to a late 19th-century facility, and that new Dinosaur Discoveries exhibit in the Science Museum.

The center provides drop-in activities during hours when the museum is open. Decorated with colorful and intricately painted floor-to-wall murals, the center’s hands-on activities provide insights into the culturally diverse collections on display in the museum’s galleries.

There are many other examples of how the old and the new — the past, the present, and sometimes the future — rush together in an almost seamless fashion at the museums, said Simpson, adding that this quality is one of many that make the collection of museums, which offer free admission to city residents, a historic landmark, a center for culture, and one of the leading tourist attractions in the region.

Lyman Wood, seen in the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History

Lyman Wood, seen in the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, says the Museums have helped put Springfield on the map and bring more vibrancy to its downtown.

Evolution and building on past successes have been the blueprint for the Museums since the first items were put on display in the middle of the 19th century.

Indeed, the Springfield Museums trace their origins to 1857, when the Springfield and the Young Men’s Library Assoc. were joined to form the City Library Assoc. The earliest museum collections were housed in a room in City Hall.

In 1871, the museum collections were moved into a new library building, said Simpson, adding that, in 1888, George Walter Vincent Smith and his wife, Belle Townsley Smith, offered their collection to the association — a philanthropic act and one that would set the tone for many to come — that led to the construction of Springfield’s first museum.

The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, an Italian palazzo-style building, opened its doors in 1896. The next addition to what would become a cluster of museums, or the Quadrangle, as it came to be called, was the Springfield Science Museum, which was founded in 1859 in City Hall and then moved in 1899 into a classical revival building that was expanded in 1932 and again in 1970, with the Tolman addition that included a public observatory.

Subsequent additions to the Quadrangle included the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum (1927), the Michelle and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts (1933), the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden (2002), the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History (2009), and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, created in the original history museum, which opened in 2017.

And opened to considerable fanfare, said Simpson, adding that there was considerable, pent-up demand for a Seuss facility — visitors to the sculpture garden would habitually ask where the museum dedicated to the children’s book author was located and were disappointed when told there wasn’t one — and this was reflected in both the number of visitors and the long distances they traveled to walk under the arch at the front of the building.

Simpson told BusinessWest that, while the numbers speak loudly about the impact of the Seuss museum — attendance rose 110% in 2017 — it’s sometimes difficult to put into words exactly what that facility means for the Museums. But she tried, as did Wood.

“The opening of the Dr. Seuss Museum elevated the Museums in so many ways,” she explained. “It of course increased our attendance and, as a result, our revenue from ticketed admissions, which was very positive. But it also changed the character of our visitation; it really made us national and international, and while that might sound like an exaggeration, it really isn’t.

Above, the interior of the Science Museum in the mid-’30s. The facilities at the Quadrangle have all evolved with changing times and advancing technology. Below, Kay Simpson at the Dinosaur Discoveries special exhibit now at the Science Museum.

“We have the visitor-comment books that demonstrate that people travel here from Indiana and California and London because they wanted to see the Dr. Seuss Museum,” she went on, adding that, when they come — and those comment books indicate they’re also making repeat visits — they generally visit the other museums on the Quadrangle and often get out to see other parts of the city as well.

Wood agreed, and said that, collectively, the Museums, bolstered by the Dr. Seuss facility, will play a huge role in what he sees as the city’s best bet from a business and economic-development standpoint moving forward: tourism.

“To me, the future of Springfield, and I’ve been arguing this for 25 years, is going to be tourism,” he told BusinessWest. “We tried to get Fidelity out here, we’ve tried to be a tech center, we’ve made some good progress with communications, but if we’re really going to be on the map and have the vibrancy we all want, it’s going to come from tourism.”

And the Museums, along with MGM Springfield, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and other large attractions, will play a huge role in these efforts.

Entrepreneurship on Display

Overall, the Seuss Museum brings not only those aforementioned revenues — from not only admissions, but also the sale of items in the gift shop and, hopefully, those license plates — but also momentum and opportunity to expand and enhance its mission and do more to continue the evolutionary process of the individual museums.

In short, said Simpson, the Museums will continue to echo the entrepreneurial spirit so readily on display in the history museum, with its displays of Smith & Wesson guns, Indian motocycles, some of the first automobiles made in this country, several of Milton Bradley’s toys and games, and other products made in the city.

“The opening of the Dr. Seuss Museum elevated the Museums in so many ways. It of course increased our attendance and, as a result, our revenue from ticketed admissions, which was very positive. But it also changed the character of our visitation; it really made us national and international, and while that might sound like an exaggeration, it really isn’t.”

Plans to renovate and modernize the Science Museum are one example of being entrepreneurial and seizing opportunities, she said, adding that some of the halls are being improved in preparation for the opening of a Smithsonian SPARK Lab, a maker’s space that will bring more hands-on activities to the facility.

That lab is similar in nature to both the Art of Discovery Center in the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum and the so-called Cat’s Corner (named after the Cat in the Hat) in the Seuss Museum, a space on the second floor where children and families can take part in a host of facilitated art and literacy activities. Such facilities help prompt return visits, said Simpson, by providing new experiences each time one comes.

“With the SPARK Lab, you have this wonderful space with a changing curriculum where kids can go and engage in these open-ended activities that tie to STEM,” she explained. “And it is the Smithsonian, so it has that wonderful brand.”

The building on Chestnut Street that was acquired recently is still another example of the Museums being entrepreneurial, said Simpson. The space, currently occupied by a liquor store and a convenience store, could be put to a number of uses that could advance the institution’s mission and bring more people to the Quadrangle.

Possibilities include another maker’s space or perhaps a small bakery, much like the one operated by Ted Geisel’s maternal grandparents more than a century ago.

Overall, the broad goal for the Museums moving forward is to maintain their relevance, something many institutions, especially the living-history museums, are struggling to do in this day and age, she said, noting that, nationwide, attendance is down roughly 20% at museums across the board.

“When you talk about strategic planning, you can see it in terms of the evolution of the Quadrangle,” she said, referring to many of the recent changes, additions, and new, family-oriented exhibits. “You’re looking for those opportunities to make sure that what you’re offering is relevant to today’s audiences; you’re always building on the past.”

And building toward the future as well, said Kane, the board chair, who returned to that notion of being entrepreneurial.

“And what better place to follow that path than in Springfield?” she said, referencing the city’s long history of innovation and ‘firsts.’ “We can provide people with experiences that they can relate to and have value for them; it’s about making memories.”

Wood agreed. He said the Seuss Museum has brought attention to Springfield from across the state, across the country, and even from around the world, and it’s now incumbent on the institution to take full advantage of this development and build momentum moving forward.

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum doubled the Museums’ attendance

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum doubled the Museums’ attendance in the first year it was open, greatly increasing revenues and creating more opportunities for the institution.

“What happened with the attendance that first year was remarkable, and it put us on the map with Boston,” he said. “We’ve received much more attention from the governor and the lieutenant governor — they’ve been out here to the Museums many times — and that means more people in the city and far outside the city are more aware of us. We have to build on that.”

Simpson concurred, and as she talked about the future, she returned once more to the past.

“When the Museums first opened, there was a statement made by one of the early founders that this was the ‘people’s college,’” she recalled, noting that phrase reflected a time when few people went to college. “I think that’s a wonderful expression, but I like to think of us more as the ‘people’s museum’ — there’s something for everyone, and we provide really substantial educational experiences for people of all ages.”

And it is now in a much better position to do that for generations to come.

Drive Time

Simpson said a date will soon be set for the auction involving those low, much-sought-after numbers for the Seuss specialty license plates. A few opportunistic individuals will emerge as big winners in that competition.

But over the past 161 years or so, the residents of Springfield and the region as a whole have all been big winners because of the Museums and all they have brought to the region — from art, science, and history to thousands of visitors and greater vibrancy.

Springfield was already on the map before 1857, when the first of the Museums’ exhibits went on display, but this institution has kept it there and promoted more people to circle that spot.

The Dr. Seuss Museum has taken the Quadrangle to a new and exciting place and made it a national and international attraction. But the reality is that this special collection of museums has always been a Difference Maker.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

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