Jepson Center adding dedicated Children’s Museum

Space will focus on art education, be the first of its kind in the region

Initial visualizations of new interactive spaces in the planned Children’s Museum expansion of the Jepson Center.

Telfair Museums is expanding opportunities for children and families with the announcement of its new Children’s Art Museum (CAM).

Officials say the Jepson Center’s current Artseum space will be transformed into a space dedicated to igniting creativity for children of all ages.

“Telfair has had a children’s and family space called – Artseum – for years,” said Benjamin Simons, Executive Director and CEO. “However, we’ve been involved in strategic planning lately and one of the things we realize was that space and, more importantly, the experience for children of all ages visiting the Telfair was so important.”

“We’ve had the good fortune of connecting with two very passionate community leaders and donors, community philanthropists Jackie Rabinowitz and Cynthia Willett, whose most recent efforts brought to Savannah the Sunshine Park and Healing Garden at the Children’s Hospital, are partnering with Telfair to bring CAM to life,” Simons said.

“We’re working with the design firm, FREN Design, Inc., based in Savannah, to build a children’s museum,” he said. “They came to us and their interests aligned with our strategic thinking very closely, so we’re partnering with them to develop a new concept for a children’s museum in the Jepson Center.”

“The CAM will be on the Oglethorpe side, facing the beautiful glass windows,” Simons boasted. “It will be a wide range of experiences and art adventures with a lot of connections to Telfair’s permanent collection. The first year, we’re going with the overall theme of Impressionism, which is one of the great strengths of the Telfair – American Impressionism.”

click to enlarge Jepson Center adding dedicated Children’s Museum
Telfair Museums
Initial visualizations of new interactive spaces in the planned Children’s Museum expansion of the Jepson Center.

Rana Edgars, Director of Development said the whole project is “made for children, for families, and even the young at heart.”

“Adults will also love the experience and will have a new way to wonder and learn about our permanent collection,” Edgars noted. “There will be a toddler area, specific for toddlers and their parents, and a place where we can have our toddler programming. It will also be very interactive with a lot of spaces with screens. We know that can be an overload at times, so there will be a family room that will also have interactive activities. It will be good for children, parents, and youth to experience the art both visually and hands-on.”

Simons stated his confidence in bringing visitors to the museum. 

“This will be a huge attraction for visitors to Savannah and it will even be a reason to come to Savannah.”

“You know, in our research, we learned this will be the only children’s art museum in the entire Lowcountry,” Simons added. “It will be a big magnet for Savannah. Equally importantly, local families, school children, and our very robust relationship with the Chatham County Public Schools will only be enhanced by this [museum]. We want to expand those partnerships and provide opportunities for local families to come to have an experience they couldn’t get in the whole region other than here in the new museum.”

Simons emphasized the importance of children experiencing art at a very young age. 

“There are extensive studies in the pre-K and toddler ages that show early exposure to visual thinking strategies and learning to engage visually with the world and developing tools to do that have a huge impact on people’s lives and development and broadening of their world view,” he said. “That’s our overall goal: to inspire wonder, to develop the skills to navigate the world, and to also have fun.”

Harry DeLorme, Director of Education and Senior Curator who has been with the museum for over 30 years said the plan is “to work with the permanent collection and to also develop the content in a way that closely aligns with the Georgia school curriculum and the national educational curriculum. This will only strengthen our relationship with the Chatham County Public School Districts.”

 “It’s an important project for our education programs and it continues the tradition of children’s exhibitions we’ve established here going back to the 1970s. Telfair’s been doing interactive children’s activities for a long time. We’ve been able to update the Artseum [over time], so this is a terrific way to continue to offer this kind of family space. We see so many children and families throughout the year for all of our programs, so we think this is going to be a great new space for families to explore here at the museum.”

“There are so many ways we engage with outreach with classes and it’s really just to elevate and enhance all that we already do working with children and the local schools,” DeLorme said. “However, adults will love it and feel like kids again when they experience the space. Part of our strategic planning process was speaking with a lot of families and parents and their experience of not having a lot of things for children to do in Savannah and so we listened closely to that. Part of our inspiration was to create this magical space—a place where they’ll want to come back over and over again.”

The museum hopes to appeal to visitors by adding a missing element: more activities for families and children.

“We have a lot of tourists visiting with children and families in the summer months, we’ve actually seen an increase in visitors with young children. Our programs for young families and children have been very popular and have bounced as the pandemic has waned. There’s going to be an audience that’s hungry for this [museum],” DeLorme said.

“Art [has a] transformation role that it can play in our lives,” DeLorme said. “I’m a firm believer—and we’ve been doing art interaction for decades—and I’ve seen over and over again how art can change lives.”

DeLorme definitely has enthusiasm for the project and what the future holds. 

“It doesn’t matter who you are, you can have a meaningful experience looking at art and making art. There’s a very therapeutic quality to it—the art making and exploring workings of art, looking at it and discussing the work—it’s a really important thing to our mental well-being,” he said. “Even if you’re not a professional artist… it doesn’t matter. You can gain a lot from trying it out or working with materials or looking at art with friends. There’s so much in works of art. They’re open-ended with so much to explore. That’s why artists make art. They put them out there for our contemplation. There’s a lot we can get out of that. Families look at art together. It’s a very powerful thing. They can share their experience and observations. I’m a firm believer that art has the power to transform us and change lives.”

“Come be a kid,” he said.

For more information on the project and how you may be involved, email info@telfair.org.



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