The short version: I love humans, especially my three boys, and I feel ridiculously privileged to be able to spearhead this phenomenal project! Below is the long version:
From Northern California originally, I’ve lived and traveled in many places in the U.S. and Europe (far more than some, far less than others), but we have called Beaver County home for the past 17 years. That is the longest I have lived anywhere in my entire life, so it feels like I have some roots being planted here…
I have been involved in ministry, public art, and placemaking projects all over Beaver County for nearly two decades, but we have been especially connected to the Beaver Falls community. My youngest son, now a senior in high school, recalls sitting on Mrs.Tench’s lap- a matriarch in our community- as a 3-year-old while his brothers and I mentored students at the TigerPause after-school program. I love that this is among his earliest memories.
Through both volunteerism and work at TigerPause, teaching art classes at the Center for Creative Arts Expression, collaborating with Stray Cat Studio on our wonderfully big community mosaic project, spearheading a variety of CDC projects such as Spaces-in-Between, my work at the SOMA Gathering and the Carnegie Free Library of Beaver Falls, and my longtime collaborations with good folks like Trails Ministries and others, I have had the privilege of meeting a variety of diverse and interesting people. We slowly came to be drawn to this place and to the people who make up this community, and four years ago, my youngest son and I relocated from a nearby town and purchased a home here in Beaver Falls.
I was recently asked in an interview if my 17-year-old self could have envisioned my future self as the founder of a children’s museum in Beaver Falls. What a question! I would never have guessed this exact vocation, although I can look back and see the threads of my story that have brought me to this exact place. My work is an interesting hybrid of equity work, education, the arts and humanities, family advocacy, and playful learning, and I think all of those pieces are reflected in my personal narrative and my education. At 17, I was studying International Politics and Philosophy and imagined I would be doing some type of missionary or foreign service work at an NGO in the developing world. I was also an avid museum goer and artist and was privileged to be able to travel widely and visit museums across the nation and later the globe. The same values and entrepreneurial spirit that caused me to pursue those early dreams followed me through my adult years as my story took some different turns. About 16 years ago, I had the privilege of building community in Beaver Falls through my work creating public art, in community development, at the library, and as the mother of three boys.
Sometime during those 16 years, our family looked different as we experienced divorce. I was able to see the many barriers that single-parent homes encounter as they try and raise their children and realized that some of those barriers were unnecessary. During this time, the inequity in the educational system became apparent to me, especially for our Black community and students in poverty. Since education is incredibly valued in our family, I focused there, and in particular, on early learning and on ways the system engages (or fails to engage) families. So, I went back to school and studied Child & Family Services and Psychology at our local university.
Children’s museums are phenomenal resources for families where playful learning opportunities provide cognitive benefits and social-emotional skills for our early learners and their caregivers, preparing them to better excel at all areas of their education. Bringing a resource like a children’s museum into an underrepresented community removes the barriers of time, financial resources, and mobility and makes it accessible to all of our families. So, although I would never have told you at 17 that I would one day launch a children’s museum in a small River town in rural PA, looking back, it makes complete sense.
I believe that museums are spaces where novel learning and making can occur and where a shared language and understanding can emerge that unifies rather than divides. I’m excited for the ways that Neighborhood North can be a space of curiosity and creativity for our community and can help build a pathway to a more equitable future. I invite you to join me in this fun adventure!
Starting January 31, 2022:
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