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The DoSeum CEO Vanessa Lacoss Hurd, who presided over the years-long project to fund and build a national-caliber children’s museum in San Antonio, has announced plans to step down after eight years in her position and 14 months of record-setting attendance at the new Broadway campus.
The Lake/Flato-designed campus has drawn more than 650,000 visitors since it opened in June 2015. The H-E-B Free Family Night every first and third Tuesday of the month has proven especially popular with long lines of museum goers as a regular occurrence for the 5:30-7:30 p.m. admission. The museum routinely reaches its maximum capacity of 1,500 people on such nights.
Hurd led efforts to raise $52 million, including a $20 million gift from H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, that brought the museum out of downtown at its cramped East Houston Street location to its highly visible present location at 2800 Broadway across from Brackenridge Park.
Hurd became CEO of the then-San Antonio Children’s Museum in 2008, and quickly became the catalyst for the museum’s move to the Broadway corridor. The DoSeum has been ranked among the top 10 children’s museums in the country since the move.
“It’s the right time for me to close this chapter and focus on my family,” Hurd said in a statement. “My husband and three children have been incredibly supportive of me throughout my time at the museum, and I am looking forward to giving them my full support now.”
In a letter Hurd sent to board members that was shared with the Rivard Report, the outgoing CEO reflected on her trajectory.
“Eight years ago, I signed on as the interim director of the San Antonio Children’s Museum for the then-interim director who was going on maternity leave,” Hurd stated. “As you well know, my original contract was for 6 weeks. Needless to say, I got hooked.”
The DoSeum is highly interactive, offering ample opportunities for children to learn about science, math, art, and literacy through exhibits and innovative experiences. Unique exhibits include an interactive puppet parade, a musical staircase, a robot named Baxter, a spy academy, and more.
In a statement, Hurd said that “it was never just about constructing a beautiful building.” For her, the vision was about strengthening the ecosystem of learning opportunities for educators, families, and kids alike to create leaders of tomorrow.
“I am honored to have been surrounded by a supportive and dedicated board and a talented and devoted staff who were so deeply committed to bringing this dream to fruition,” Hurd stated. “It’s more than I could have imagined when I first walked into the original building on Houston Street eight years ago, and I am immensely proud of where we are today.”
The DoSeum Board of Directors Chairwoman Suzanne Goudge praised Hurd’s commitment to the museum and touched upon future leadership plans.
“San Antonio is now home to one of the top 10 children’s museums in the country. Vanessa spearheaded a transformational period of growth, and her contributions have been immeasurable,” Goudge stated. “We have big shoes to fill. Julie Huls, current senior vice president, will serve as interim CEO while the board conducts a national search for our next leader.”
During the DoSeum’s first 15 months alone, the museum gained 12,000 member families, created an on-site preschool program certified by the State, and trained more than 500 teachers in professional development programs such as the STEM Educator Cohort, a program where teachers use the DoSeum’s facilities as a learning laboratory to develop teaching strategies.
In addition, the DoSeum partners with Harlandale, Judson, San Antonio, and Southwest ISDs to train teachers on an “Engineering is Elementary” curriculum, a nationally-lauded program developed by the Boston Museum of Science and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“I’m incredibly proud of what this community has accomplished in bringing this rich resource to our kids. With 650,000 visitors to date – far more than we had initially predicted – our success means that the city has embraced The DoSeum with open arms,” Hurd stated. “San Antonio was clearly ready for a robust learning institution devoted to kids, caregivers, and teachers.”
Hurd told the Rivard Report in a phone interview that what she will miss most about working at the DoSeum is the people.
“You go to work every day, and in this case, you take on a big project and if you are lucky you get to surround yourself (with) people who share that commitment, conviction, and sense of possibility,” Hurd said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with the team that I had and the incredible community of volunteers and donors who rallied around this idea.”
Hurd said that she will continue to attend the DoSeum with her family and that she looks forward to the museum’s future.
“It’s a very hopeful time, as the museum has never been stronger, ” she added. “There’s a natural handing off to the next round of leadership that will take it further than frankly I could ever imagine. It’s a great opportunity to find an incredibly talented leader that will shepherd this organization and continue the incredible work in the community. I can’t wait to see what happens next.”
The museum is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday from noon-5 p.m.
To learn more about the DoSeum, click here.
Full disclosure: H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt is a major donor of the Rivard Report, and H-E-B and Lake/Flato are both major sponsors and advertisers.
Top image: DoSeum CEO Vanessa Lacoss Hurd thanks Susan Moulton and the Will Smith Foundation for their $450k donation to the DoSeum. Photo by Lea Thompson.