We're building a dream!
Founded in 2005, Bronx Children’s Museum (BxCM or Museum) is a new kind of multicultural, Bronx- inspired children’s museum operating “with and without walls” geared to those from infancy through fourth grade.
The Bronx is almost the size of Philadelphia, has 190,000 children under the age of nine, and is the only borough in New York City without an educational and cultural facility geared solely to young children and their caregivers. To complement existing outreach programs and provide the Bronx’s children with an interactive place to learn and play, BxCM, with the City, is near completion of the development of 13,000 square feet of space in a City-owned former powerhouse in the South Bronx. After weathering construction and COVID-related delays, the building's grand opening is anticipated in July 2022.
The Museum’s new facility is located on public parkland just steps away from Yankee Stadium on the Harlem River in the South Bronx. The Museum is expected to start its soft opening phase in April 2022. In light of post-pandemic health concerns, all Museum building spaces and exhibit designs were thoroughly scrutinized and redesigned as necessary to ensure visitor safety.
Until the time that COVID hit, BxCM was engaging 16,000 Bronx children and caregivers annually in hands-on arts and science (STEAM) experiences and programs throughout the borough at community-based organizations, schools, shelters, libraries, parks and festivals. Using a purple bus as a roving learning environment and its complementary suitcase exhibits and curriculum, the Museum visited 23 schools and was a key attraction at 85 fairs and festivals during the 2018-19 school year. The Museum also had six ongoing in-school and after-school programs and one summer arts enrichment program called Dream Big. In addition, BxCM offered two ongoing family arts programs specifically geared to residents living at Mitchel Houses in Mott Haven and organizations serving new immigrant populations.
In response to the pandemic, the Museum surveyed its constituency and reimagined its programming to accommodate distance learning. It introduced a new STEAM and arts curricula, The Nature of the Bronx, which was built upon its decade of “museum without walls” programming. The offering included virtual Museum educator-led lessons, educator resources and training, and a cornucopia of supplies to ensure that every child was able to participate fully. BxCM also adapted the successful Dream Big! Summer Enrichment to be a series of nine videos for 2020, which have 30,0000 cumulative views, and in 2021 to be live in-person Zoom sessions with artist Jerome LaMaar, who is creating the digital interactive for the building. The Museum also launched new events in 2021, including Music Matters, a music and concert program replete with supplies for the participants, and a science program offered on Facebook Live called Saturday Fun Labs. [MOU2] We are currently planning for the 2021-22 school year with the goal to engage in person once again.
NEED: Systemic income inequality, food deserts, poor healthcare, fewer hospitals and deteriorating housing has harmed our borough of predominantly Black and Brown residents. In fact, as it has every year for the past decade, the Bronx ranks the lowest of all 62 New York State counties in quality of life, health behaviors, availability of clinical care, social/economic factors and physical environment, according to the NY County Health Rankings Annual Report.
Children’s museums are recognized by early childhood educators, cultural and museum associations and the mental health community as impactful nurturing spaces of early learning through play that foster imagination and creativity, as well as offering relief and a space to just be.
According to mental health experts, the Museum will be needed more than ever by the children and families of the Bronx to help recover from the trauma they are experiencing now and will continue to feel for years to come. The Bronx was hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. In the 10451 ZIP code where the building is located, 1 in every 7 residents has tested positive and 1 out of every 191 residents died, per NYC.gov.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: In the South Bronx, where the Museum building is located and many of our programs occur, 94% of the population identifies as Black or Hispanic. It is of utmost importance to the Museum that we reflect and represent our community. The Museum has begun the process of creating an institutional DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion) plan in line with the Museum’s statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. As our statement says, “Children instinctively know what is not fair. We inspire children to respect and love themselves, be kind to others who may not be like them and speak up against discrimination of any kind. We will continue to work to encourage all children to treat each other with the utmost respect, fairness and tolerance.”
In keeping with these efforts, all Museum programs focus on diversity and inclusion. We have created an annotated resource library of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and multicultural children’s books as well as a reading list for Social-Emotional Learning. They will be posted on our website with caregiver guides.
We are committed to making all visitors feel welcome, however and wherever they encounter us.
This means working to ensure that our website, building signage and most printed materials are in both English and Spanish. As of 2019, 48% of the Bronx population was native Spanish speakers versus 41% for whom English is the primary language. It also means that we have designed our space to provide barrier-free access and will be offering designated times/materials for children with special needs, including, but not limited to, those with autism spectrum disorder.
LOOKING FORWARD: In early 2022, the Museum will begin inviting small groups into our new facility as part of our soft/test opening period, gradually increasing access to more people as visitor safety becomes more certain and additional funds are secured. Mill Pond Park, on which the facility stands, will offer an excellent outdoor classroom space for the Museum to access and use as a further extension of our walls. Through continued innovative mobile and remote programming, BxCM will engage children outside the walls of the new building in hands-on arts and science experiences and programs throughout the borough—at community-based organizations, schools, shelters, libraries, parks and festivals. When our new electric bus is procured in 2023, we will begin the process of outfitting it with a state-of-the-art waterways diorama with STEAM and maker experiences. We should be back on the road by late 2023.
Our facility is located just steps away from the Bronx Terminal Market and Yankee Stadium. We plan on seeing more than 17,000 children in the building after we open in July 2022, and 30,000 the following year. It will feature:
Bright, open theme-based areas with interactive activities exploring the arts, culture, science, community, natural resources, the environment and the richness of the Bronx
An age-appropriate 32-foot water exhibit; an artist-in-residence classroom space; and The Cloud, a suspended multi-purpose performance area with a touchless interactive Bronxtopia experience created by a local artist
Twelve large art installations created by Bronx-connected artists throughout the space, all of which will inform programming
Offices for BxCM educators and administrators
All programs and experiences will be tailored to the Museum’s constituency and strive to create stronger families, stronger communities and a better city for all. BxCM is publicly and privately funded. Our admission prices will be nominal and in line with our constituencies’ economic capacity.
CURRENT EMERGENCY FINANCIAL NEEDS: Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Museum has launched a sustainability/naming campaign. We must raise $525,000 by the end of 2021 and an additional $2.1 million by 2023 in order to have a vibrant, fun-filled sustainable museum. These needs are above and beyond the funds required to support a general operating budget of nearly $1.2 million in 2021 and $1.6 million in 2022.
FUNDING: To date, BxCM has secured more than $14.7 million in New York City funding and $4 million from the State Assembly for bricks-and-mortar, signage and FF&E (Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment) to develop and open our facility. BxCM raised $4.3 million, mostly in private funding, towards a full house of interactive exhibits; furniture, fixtures and equipment; and visitor services and operational start-up costs.