BY DENISE HEIDEL, WITH COLLABORATION FROM KALEIDEUM
In 2016, The Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem and SciWorks joined together to form Kaleideum – two locations with a common mission – “Inspiring wonder, curiosity and lifelong learning in our children and community through interactive play and discovery.” Collectively – between the two organizations and since the merger, they have a combined 68+ years of community commitment to offering interactive learning experiences for children and families. Together, for the last four years, these two locations have attracted visitors, inspired guests and served as a vital part of the educational fabric of our community.
Now, it is the time for a relocation…one that will create an exciting family destination in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem.
In June 2020, Kaleideum unveiled the design for the museum’s new building in downtown Winston-Salem. This is the result of years of collaboration and strategic planning by the Kaleideum staff, board of directors and community leaders. And, after weeks of stay-at-home orders and discouraging news in the media, this announcement was a most welcome breath of fresh air for the Piedmont Triad. Elizabeth Dampier, Kaleideum’s executive director, shared, “Museums are catalysts for thriving communities. After weeks of adjusting to our new norms, a contemporary, interactive museum of arts, sciences and exploration as an accessible destination in the heart of downtown becomes even more important. Our team is excited to move into this new phase of our organization and to share with this community we love a visual manifestation of the values and identity of Kaleideum. After all, we are a place where individuals of all ages can challenge themselves, push boundaries, ask questions and engage with their surroundings.”
Kaleideum has received tremendous public and private support for this initiative. “The Kaleideum mission is centered around the arts and sciences,” Dampier said. “We thrive on the educational importance of the sciences, technology, engineering and math, and we use the arts as a thread that brings all of it together in an inclusive environment that combines creative learning with problem-solving and experimentation. It’s a hands-on approach to ‘learning reimagined,’ and it is something that is meant to be experienced by everyone.”
Gensler, a global architecture, design and planning firm with an office based in Raleigh, and Stitch Design Shop, based in Winston-Salem, are the architects of the project, which is a five-story, approximately 72,000-square-foot museum with a 13,000-square-foot rooftop playground adventure and event space.
“The new museum aligns the visitor experience with Kaleideum’s mission by creating a welcoming, visible hub for the community,” said Brad Burns, Gensler Design Director. “The building concept, grounded in the idea of experiencing spaces from diverse perspectives, integrates the natural environment and provides flexible spaces that allow for a wide range of learning experiences. One of the most unique aspects of the museum is the multi-level rooftop exhibit experience that provides opportunities for learning, play and fantastic views to surrounding areas of downtown and beyond.”
The new family destination will be a link between the arts and cultural district to the north and the more historic and civic district to the south, and it will be flanked by two public spaces, Merschel Park and Liberty Plaza. When completed, the new museum will anchor the southern end of Merschel Park, a downtown open space to the south of where Trade and Fourth streets intersect.
The project site is also a highly accessible location at the corner of 3rd Street and Town Run Lane, and the new building will sit on the site of the former Sheriff’s Building, an office building that has been demolished because of limitations that would not allow renovation to maximize the potential museum exhibits. The construction project was awarded to Winston-Salem’s Frank L. Blum Construction Company.
“The Children’s Museum and SciWorks, now Kaleideum Downtown and Kaleideum North, have always been wonderful resources to the Forsyth County community,” said Mark Dunnagan, Vice President of Blum. “Through the years, these facilities have been special places for the employees of Blum Construction and our families. We continue to treasure the memories made there, and we look forward to creating new memories in Kaleideum’s new home.”
The new building is a public/private partnership with Forsyth County, which committed $30.5 million toward the project. The City of Winston-Salem is contributing $2 million for the Liberty Plaza demolition and renovation. “We are very thankful for the generous funds that are financing this project,” said Dampier. “These funds will help us create a magnificent place of learning that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
The building concept is grounded in the idea of experiencing spaces and places from diverse perspectives. Two primary materials are used on the exterior – smooth, colorful metal panels and highly textured precast concrete panels. The design is inspired by the geometric forms and triangulated shapes captured in a kaleidoscope, the instrument of art and science upon which the museum’s name is based.
“The exterior of the building will offer interesting viewpoints of light, shadow and color based on the time of day and the vantage point,” Dampier said. “It’s going to be a visual experience, even from the outside.
“One of the things our team is most excited about is the rooftop experience,” Dampier continued. “It is an amazing opportunity for a child to play and learn from the top of the building, which will provide a unique perspective, interesting views and encourage curiosity through play.’
The new Kaleideum building is also representative of Winston-Salem’s tagline – the City of Arts and Innovation, providing space for imaginations to soar and creativity to thrive, and a welcoming experience for everyone who is eager to learn and grow.
“As a native of this community, I can vividly remember visiting the then Nature Science Center in the mid 1980s and how it sparked a sense of wonder and an excitement for learning,” said Adam Sebastian with STITCH Design Shop. “Through the innovative use of form, materials and color to provide compelling visual effects, the new Kaleideum building embodies the spirit of the City of Arts & Innovation while embracing Kaleideum’s mission of inspiring wonder, curiosity and lifelong learning, and providing a safe and welcoming place for our entire community to learn and dream together.”
Construction on the new Kaleideum building is expected to begin in summer 2021 with an anticipated opening date in Spring 2023.
Visit kaleideum.org for information on Kaleideum’s most up-to-date plans on reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to like Kaleideum on Facebook and follow them on Instagram. Engage in fun online learning through Kaleideum’s blog or YouTube channel. Donations can be made to Kaleideum through their website.
“The new museum aligns the visitor experience with Kaleideum’s mission by creating a welcoming, visible hub for the community. The building concept, grounded in the idea of experiencing spaces from diverse perspectives, integrates the natural environment and provides flexible spaces that allow for a wide range of learning experiences. One of the most unique aspects of the museum is the multi-level rooftop exhibit experience that provides opportunities for learning, play and fantastic views to surrounding areas of downtown and beyond.”
Brad Burns, Design Director + Associate, Gensler
“The Children’s Museum and SciWorks, now Kaleideum Downtown and Kaleideum North, have always been wonderful resources to the Forsyth County community. Through the years, these facilities have been special places for the employees of Blum Construction and our families. We continue to treasure the memories made there, and we look forward to creating new memories in Kaleideum’s new home.”
Mark Dunnagan, Vice President, Frank L. Blum Construction Company
Remote Learning and Enrichment Opportunities at Kaleideum
While Kaleideum remains closed to the public during the week, the museum is responding to the community need with options for remote learning support and enrichment. All options take place at Kaleideum North, located at 400 West Hanes Mill Road.
Kaleideum is offering half-day options for enrichment.
- Morning Preschool Enrichment Camp for ages 3 – 5. Offered August 17 – October 23 from 9 AM – 12:30 PM Monday – Friday.
- Afternoon Enrichment Camp for students in Kindergarten – 5th Grade. Offered August 17 – October 23 from 9 AM – 12:30 PM Monday – Friday.
Kids can enjoy games, explore the outdoors and take part in science, art and engineering enrichment programming to support social/emotional development.
Kaleideum is offering a full-day option for Remote Learning Support.
- Remote Learning Support for students in Kindergarten – 8th Grade. Offered August 17 – October 23 from 9 AM – 12:30 PM Monday – Friday.
Students will be in small group sizes and will work within the remote learning curricula provided by your child’s school and participate in afternoon enrichment activities.