A lot of planning still must be done for the reboot of the Powerhouse Science Center, but the route to a sustainable future is becoming clearer.
“Our focus will be on key programs and the museum itself,” said Nana Naisbitt, who became executive director of the Powerhouse in April. The board closed the Powerhouse May 9 after the severity of its financial status became apparent. “The days will be for children and the nights for facility rental.”
Some stability in leadership is also a goal. The Powerhouse has had five executive directors, including two interim directors, in four years.
The plan is still a work in progress, said Kathleen O’Connor, newly elected president of the board of directors.
“This is the broad-spectrum vision, and things are certainly going to change,” she said. “I would call this the first permutation. We’re going to start slow, and we’re fixing things from the bottom up in a fiscally sound way.”
The draft plan has several main goals:
Cut the operating budget by at least 50 percent.
Make the entire facility a museum by opening up all the historic power-generating equipment for public view.
Apply to be a Smithsonian affiliate.
Design programming that is creative and seasonal with exhibits that are made locally and changed periodically.
Focus on six to seven programs that will be sustainable and review them frequently to ensure they remain sustainable.
Provide customized science-career ladder for four interns for 10-week periods.
Begin ongoing board development.
Raise $150,000 to reopen Sept. 1.
Eliminate and consolidate numerous programs.
The programs the organizers have determined they will maintain include:
School field trips.
Toddler Time – special times each day for the 4-and-younger crowd.
After-school programs, such as “messy, crafty, science projects,” twice a week.
Other programs that will be kept include science backpack rentals, birthday parties, facility tours and rentals.
The community will be asked to weigh in during July, when tours of the revamped facility with its wealth of historical equipment exposed also will begin.
“An important part of this plan is scheduling community listening sessions,” O’Connor said. “We need to run these plans past the community to see if we’re meeting their needs.”
A number of experienced people are volunteering to help the Powerhouse rebuild and reopen by September.
Cathi Cox, who earned a master of business administration from Harvard University and is an expert in turnarounds, is helping establish financial controls a for-profit business requires. Sheri Rochford Figgs, who was a key player in the rescue of the Durango Arts Center when it hit a financial crisis several years ago, has been pitching in on an almost daily basis.
“I’m really impressed with Nana,” Figgs said. “No. 1, because she has such solid experience with science centers and also has a strong nonprofit background, but also because she has such a solid business sense. Had she not seen what was happening, this would have been far more disastrous.”
Two more changes have been made on the board. Peggy Zemach, who was recruited in February and has a deep background in museum management, was elected its vice president. The board also elected Amanda Kibel, who has a background in nonprofit management and board development, to join it.
“We’re shooting for reviews on Yelp that call the Powerhouse ‘a do-not-miss experience,’ that it’s not like any other children’s museum,” Naisbitt said. “We have a huge asset here, and we need to play to our assets.”