The Brooklyn Children’s Museum is coming to Dumbo. Today, BCM and Brooklyn Bridge Park announced the opening of Spark, the museum’s new 1,850-foot annex located in the luxe condo development One John Street inside Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Set to open October 15, the project is the museum’s first expansion beyond its flagship—and until now, only—location in Crown Heights. “The opening of Spark represents an exciting moment in the Museum’s 117-year history,” Museum President and CEO Stephanie Wilchfort said in the release announcing its expansion. “Forever committed to serving the families of Brooklyn, Brooklyn Children’s Museum will be able to reach tens of thousands more children and caregivers.” If all goes according to plan, the museum expects as many as 50,000 visitors to the museum in the first year alone.
Alloy Development and Monadnock Development, the joint forces behind 1 John Street, donated the space to the park, which, in turn, allowed the museum to use it rent-free. (They also outfitted the space pro-bono, and provided donations to get operations up and running.) “This is a perfect example of how public-private partnerships can work to improve the city’s public realm and enrich its cultural mix,” said AJ Pires, President of Alloy Development.
Spark’s inaugural exhibit will be a second location of the already-popular Brooklyn Block Lab, a 1,500 square foot indoor/outdoor play space that uses blocks to help build and support “critical and cognitive skills.” The space will also feature an art studio, a soft crawl space, and a hands-on science-oriented Discovery Den. In addition to pre-registered morning classes ($300 for the semester), the annex will offer drop-in, open-play sessions ($15 per child, except on Thursdays, when it is free).
As with most developments, even the Brooklyn Children’s Museum expansion wasn’t without controversy. When it was announced, some questioned how the museum, where the number of full-time employees had fallen from 69 to 35 since 2008, planned to staff the new annex, underscoring accusations that it was trying to abandon the largely black community in which the museum has existed for more than a century.
At the time the annex was being pushed forward, five out of six members of the executive leadership team was white. Now the museum has a senior management team of four, with two of its members identifying as black.