"It's such a great environment with a welcoming feeling. It hasn't changed," Jones said as she kept a close eye on some child charges at the museum one morning last week.
But the castle almost collapsed two years ago when the museum, founded in 1985, announced that it needed
In the past, some Santa Fe nonprofits have asked for similar help from the community and did not receive it. Others have been afraid to ask, aware that a request for aid could be perceived as a sign of weakness. But the gambit paid off for the museum.
By the early 2013, about
Roberts also wants to send a message to other nonprofits that it's OK to ask for help. "It's always a risk to go to the community, but it is an appropriate action step," she said in an interview in Wednesday.
Some donors did ask her, "If I write you this check, how do I know you won't close the next day?"
So she opened the books and laid out her plans to stay afloat and move forward, helped in part by the support of such community partners as the
Roberts' background encompasses about 20 years of running nonprofits as both an executive and development director, including positions at the
As she and her staff plan a 30th birthday celebration in February -- which may include a party just for adults -- they await the results of an artistic and financial audit conducted by the
"It will make sure our bylaws and finances are in order and ask deeper questions about where our audience is and how the community is changing," Roberts said.
Meanwhile, the museum is doing its own audit, using nearly 30 years of data and documents. Roberts has discovered that a large majority of visitors come from the city's south side, despite anecdotal evidence suggesting otherwise. About a quarter of all visitors travel at least 50 miles to the museum. More than half of all one-time visitors are from out of state, records show.
The museum will offer about 1,000 free field trips for Title 1 public-school students in grades K-3 this coming school year. It has partnered with Las Cumbres Community Services to start a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program. And Roberts wants to see the museum offer more early childhood education opportunities. She also sees it as a possible venue for immunization clinics.
Based on feedback she received from the community, Roberts brought back the popular bubble-making tire rig. On Wednesday, one child after another stepped inside the tire, gave a tug on a pulley, and found themselves surrounded in a giant bubble of their own making.
The old tire got plain worn out and was discarded before Roberts came on board and got a donation to replace it.
Keeping the museum fresh and alive is a challenge -- "one that costs money," Roberts said. She expects to draft a new plan sometime next summer or fall, after the
That makes 6-year-old
"This place gives families a chance to connect to each other. ... I don't think there are enough places in the world that do that," she said.
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