Topping Off: A Third Grader Extols New Children’s DoSeum

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It will take a while for adults to get comfortable with the coming name change for the Children’s Museum of San Antonio, soon to be in a new home and rechristened the San Antonio Children’s DoSeum. It won’t take any time to convince San Antonio’s children the DoSeum is the place to be and rightly named.

Kelly Elementary third grader Giselle Alcoser took to a temporary stage Tuesday afternoon at the under-construction, 5.5.-acre learning laboratory at the corner of Broadway and Mulberry, and confidently explained to a gathering of DoSeum supporters, builders, architects and staff what all the excitement is about.

Kelly Elementary third grader Giselle Alcoser

Kelly Elementary third grader Giselle Alcoser at the DoSeum topping off ceremony. Photo by Bruce Graham.

“I can’t wait to learn and play in the all-new Children’s Museum you are building for all the kids in San Antonio,” Giselle said. “I have already told my Dad we need to be the first ones here when it opens.”

The precocious third grader has demonstrated a special interest in STEM learning since she first visited the current Children’s Museum on East Houston Street as a toddler.

Her embrace of science and her excitement over the new DoSeum, set to open in June 2015, is exactly what the DoSeum brain trust hopes to kindle in the minds of young children citywide.

What’s really being built is a science, technology and innovation university for children, a place designed to spark imagination, creativity, serendipity and surprise. A place where hands-on learning and having fun are synonymous. A place children will want to come back to again and again, and a place where the inner child in every adult escapes for a while, too.

“We have created a place where children get excited about concepts in science, math, art and literacy, and take that excitement with them into the world,” said Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, the museum’s executive director. “Children learn by doing, so we put doing right in the name.”

The new facility will feature 65,000 square feet of exhibit space, 50 percent larger than the East Houston Street facility, and 30,000 square feet of outdoor space with free parking for 240 vehicles.

Lake/Flato Architects' artistic rendering of the Do Seum.

Lake/Flato Architects’ artistic rendering of the DoSeum.

Tuesday’s gathering was to celebrate the “topping off” of the new multi-unit complex that is being built by Guido Brothers Construction on prime Broadway frontage across from Brackenridge Park.

Guido also built the new Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center at the nearby Witte Museum. Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and wife Tracy Wolff presided over the ceremonial signing of the last beam to be raised to the rooftop along with the traditional “topping off” tree.

“This will be the new gateway to Breckenridge Park,” said David Lake, of Lake/Flato Architects, the firm that designed the unique indoor-outdoor campus that will beckon with lots of outdoor shade and green space surrounding the different buildings, each one colored a different, inviting hue. “The $20 million gift from Charles Butt is enabling us to do a lot of special things, including the removal of all the telephone poles and wires along Broadway and plant rows of mature shade trees. Wait until people see what’s coming next.”

the last beam to be raised to the rooftop along with the traditional "topping off" tree. Photo by Bruce Graham.

The last beam to be raised to the DoSeum rooftop along with the traditional “topping off” tree. Photo by Bruce Graham.

The 2012 philanthropic gift from Butt, chairman and CEO of H-E-B, is believed to be the single biggest gift to a San Antonio cultural institution in city history.

‘We’ve reached an important milestone, and most of the hard work is finished,” said Joan Collins Wyatt, president of the Children’s Museum board of trustees, who praised Hurd, the museum’s executive director, as “a visionary leader and the hardest working woman in San Antonio.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and wife Tracy Wolff

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and wife Tracy Wolff sign the last beam of DoSeum construction. Photo by Bruce Graham.

Wyatt then introduced Judge Wolff but didn’t surrender the microphone until she had delivered a friendly on-stage reminder that a pending contribution from Bexar County was still highly anticipated. Wolff got the message.

“We’ll figure out a way to do it, don’t you worry,” he joked. “This is the only reason I was invited to speak today.”

Most of the $46 million needed to finance the new museum was raised privately by Hurd and her team, a feat praised by Wolff.

“This is so exciting to see everything developing along he Broadway Cultural Corridor,” he said, citing the many cultural destinations that now extend from the McNay Art Museum in Alamo Heights down to the Witte Museum and San Antonio Botanical Gardens, south to the San Antonio Museum of Art and on to the near-downtown Tobin Center for Performing Arts, slated to open in September. “Some day it all might be linked by the street car…if I’m not buried underneath it.”

Wolff said he struggled with the new name when he first read of the change, but then caught on that the new venue will be “a place for children to do things: The DoSeum.”

“We are thinking big about what a children’s museum can be,” Hurd said, “so it seems right to put ‘Do’ in the name.”

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