CLOSE
Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Organizers say the programming they've planned is only possible because of the funding they were awarded by the state last month to replace some of the losses they faced after being closed for four months last year.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Like so many other entertainment venues in 2021, the Iowa Children's Museum is making plans for 2021 with COVID-19 concerns in mind.

Part of the reason the museum has been able to continue to operate, Jeff Capps, the museum's executive director, said, is the $114,000 it was awarded last month as part of $7 million in state grant funding allocated to support the arts in early December.

"We’ve just had these incredibly high-stress months (and) we’ve looked for these little glimmers of hope," Capps said on Feb. 4, a day after the museum received those funds. "It’s given us the confidence to pursue all these things and it's stabilized us for a period of time."

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

While the museum's was the largest grant awarded to any Johnson County venue, it represents only a little more than half of the $200,000 museum had lost by June last year, when it fully closed for four months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The museum has reduced its hours of in-person operation, but still, in part because of the grant, staff has been able to plan programming for the venue throughout 2021.

One of the most significant events planned is the museum's annual hour-long gala.

The "Homes Sweet Home ICM 21 Gala," a virtual event this year, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 26. Though the evening's exact itinerary is still coming into focus, organizers know it will offer fun for both children and their parents.

"It's going to be a combination of a live stream show and a pre-recorded element," Capps said of the gala.

► More: Coralville-based Iowa Children's Museum works to provide safe fun, education amid COVID-19

There will also be an in-person aspect of the gala, in so far as meals for pick-up are being provided by Rapid Creek Cidery for the event. The meals are ticketed, though, and must be registered for by 5 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22. They include beer/wine for parents and games for kids and will be picked up the day of the event.

The event will be ticketed, with prices ranging from $50 to $250, depending on the purchaser's desired level of access and whether or not they opt for the meal.

Also this month, in honor of Black History Month, the museum plans to partner with the Cedar Rapids-based African-American Museum of Iowa on Wednesday.

"We're calling them 'play and learn sessions," said Capps. "The African-American Museum is bringing some of their traveling trunks ... it'll be like a play date at the museum for engaging the kids."

The event, a set of free in-person play sessions that require online registration, will feature a number of activities for kids age 4 to 12 designed to deepen their understanding of Black history, particularly the history of Black Iowans.

► More: Iowa Children's Museum's reimagined in-person events begins again this weekend

The museum has also been making general changes in light of the ongoing pandemic. Operating days have been limited to Thursdays through Sundays each week and its rules regarding in-person play sessions continue to be updated on its website.

Additional exhibits have also been introduced by the museum in the interest of reducing children's contact with surfaces.

"We have these really neat ISpy Boxes we call 'Eye See 'Ems,'" Capps said. "We have the red one out on the Ped Mall (in Iowa City) right now, (and soon we'll have) a yellow one in Coral Ridge and the Blue One in North Liberty."

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

More notable has been the new "high-tech, low-touch" exhibit at the museum itself, which features hundreds of games that are projected onto the museum's floors and can then be interacted with by participants, allowing kids to play without really having to interact with a physical object.

More: University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums create game nights, new ways to engage audience during COVID pandemic

Though relatively new, Capps says the exhibit has been a hit so far. He recalled an instance where he was sitting in his office and heard noises coming from elsewhere in the museum. When he went to investigate, he found a family jumping and stomping as they played one of the exhibit's many games.

“It's just neat to see that multi-generational appeal — it’s neat to see that in our space," he said. "Hearing people laugh and just be engaged together is really rewarding."

Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Press-Citizen. Reach him at ihamlet@press-citizen.com or (319)-688-4247, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.press-citizen.com/story/entertainment/2021/02/15/iowa-childrens-museum-2021-plans-events-things-do-amid-covid/4394363001/