Coming soon to downtown Mesa: big changes to one of the city’s acclaimed all-ages attractions.
After more than 30 years in Arizona, the Arizona Museum for Youth is getting ready to redesign its space, and refurbish its building, and reintroduce itself to the world under a new identity.
Now called the i.d.e.a. Museum – Imagination, Design, Experience, Art – employees are ready to jump into the new identity starting June 21, when the name change officially goes into effect.
“Our name did not fit our mission,” said Sunnee O’Rork, executive director of AMY. “We are not just a museum. We incorporate science, technology and other facets to really make AMY an interactive experience for kids and their families.”
O’Rork, who has been with the museum since 2005, said the redesign will align the museum with its functions, allowing visitors a better understanding of what the museum really does.
“We really advocate hands-on, minds-on learning,” O’Rork said. “Arizona Museum for Youth didn’t really tell people what we do here. We want to teach children to look at the world in different ways.”
AMY’s original focus is art, making it the first of its kind in the country for youth, O’Rork said. Its curriculum differs by offering teachings in sculpture, painting, photography and more.
“People think our museum is for the history of Arizona, but it’s not,” O’Rork said.
AMY attracts about 70,000 visitors per year, and O’Rork believes that number will grow by at least 10 percent after revamping the name and appearance. With $100,000 donated from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, AMY’s board of directors, the City of Mesa and other contributors, the museum is embarking on the last phase of its three-year long journey that began in 2010.
The first phase involved learning about AMY’s audience and what it wanted in a youth museum. Second, a logo competition was held, which attracted 512 logo designs from 326 different graphic designers around the world.
Also involved in the remodel was a design competition as part of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ Cluster project, which helped AMY pick its new look. This winning design included a large interactive xylophone on the exterior of the museum to draw in more visitors.
“We might not be taking the whole design,” O’Rork said. “We might take components of the design, like the steel ribbons on the exterior. We love the design, but we are cautious and need to back up and do a site plan to look at all of the costs.”
O’Rork hopes to have a majority of the project done when the new name debuts in June -- the museum will close on May 27 to allow for completion, reopening a month later -- but some changes will occur over the next few years. The changes anticipated by June 21 include a non-mobile train in the ArtVille section of the museum for children ages 0 to 4, a painted lobby and entrance and an i.d.e.a. Hall of Fame that will showcase classic ideas throughout time, such as Steve Jobs’ Apple products.
O’Rork said the i.d.e.a. Museum will have more interactive exhibits that get children directly involved, like placing a table with watercolor painting materials in front of a finished watercolor painting. This will allow the children and their families to first see the art, and then create one of their own.
One of the major alterations of the museum will be the elimination of ArtZone and the creation of what will be called the i.d.e.a. Nebula.
O’Rork hopes that the Nebula will teach children the art of divergent thinking instead of believing there is only one way and one result to every idea. She also wishes to incorporate a doodle zone, which may feature a doodle from Jim Henson and Mesa’s mayor.
“We hope that this redesign will attract more people and recognize us for who we are and what we do,” O’Rork said. “We are taking notes, but some day, we hope to create our own traveling exhibits that will feature our new name and logo.”