Douglas Love fit the bill when Explore & More Children’s Museum in East Aurora undertook a national search last year to find a CEO that could lead a $27 million effort to build a new children’s museum at Canalside by the end of 2018. Love, 48, has led a nonprofit children’s theater company in Chicago. He’s written 17 children’s books for HarperCollins. He created and produced a Disney preschool TV series, “Out of the Box.” He’s run the Walden Family Playhouse in Denver – leading a $27 million fundraising effort to build a new theater – and was CEO at a similar theater company in Miami when he arrived in Western New York earlier this year.
Q. Why is a move from East Aurora to downtown Buffalo crucial to museum leaders and supporters?
You look at big cities that have made a turnaround and they all have children’s museums prominent in their downtown districts. It’s not a mistake. Not only is it enriching these kids’ lives but we’re building the citizenry of the future. Not to mention the economic drivers: having a family friendly downtown means a lot to a city’s revitalization. It has led revitalization in several major cities around the country. And it wasn’t lost on the state and its desire to bring Explore & More downtown.
Q. Talk about the planned museum.
First and foremost, it will allow us to reach 250,000 or more children. Right now in East Aurora, we reach about 60,000 kids, with about 15,000 we see at various schools and libraries around the entire region. It’s going to be a 43,000-square-foot, beautiful building with so much to offer and, because of our proximity in the center of our city, we’re going to be able to reach kids who perhaps can’t make it out to East Aurora...
Read a story about fun places for kids in Buffalo here.
We’re going to be able to share with so many communities. The children’s museum experience is all about those building blocks but it’s also about readiness for school. We want to even the playing field. The school district has lots of challenges in Buffalo and I have a track record of helping school systems and kids in school systems start out with an even playing field.
This kind of opportunity to learn through play, that starts to bring kids closer together. If you look at middle-income and low-income kids, just the number of words they hear is different (up to 30 million words by age 3, according to one researcher). We want to level the playing field. We want to help every kid in the community learn and build and make that connective tissue in their brains develop at the times it is most susceptible to building strong skills, not only for school but for life. Being in the middle of the city, I think we’re going to have an opportunity to reach kids who are underserved.
Q. Are online resources for children too passive?
Children use iPads and tablets and online resources differently. It sparks interest and excitement in them. Usually, if it is scaffolded – developed or directed in the right way – then they want to go into the real world and learn more about it. It becomes a jumping-off point. That’s why you’re seeing companies developing resources and games for very young children. It’s not about, “Do this ABC game and you’ll be really great at X-box.” It’s about a way to introduce learning skills. Then they have opportunities here at the museum to learn more about things. They have opportunities here to exercise those skills and put them into real-life situations. I think with these kids, there will be sophistication from the Internet. I’m looking to embrace the potential. I don’t want to deny that it exists. This is the world these kids are growing up in.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, ScottBScanlon