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Sci-Port cultivates next generation of museum-goers


A Cincinnati design firm is refining its plans for a children’s museum in Shreveport after a week-long visit with its client Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center

Sci-Port announced an $8.9  million capital campaign last week that budgets $2 million for a renovated and expanded children’s gallery within its current building. Tricia O’Connor, exhibit developer for Kraemer Design and Production, took detailed notes during back-to-back focus groups for Sci-Port’s Itty Bitty City concept.

“There’s so much here that really is going to make this Itty Bitty City unique to Shreveport," O'Connor said, following one focus group with Sci-Port members who have young children. "We’ve got the Red River going through, Mardi Gras, alligators, Barksdale Air Force Base and all the military ties here. There’s so much that’s going to make it a really rich, unique experience.”

Sci-Port has raised $300,000 so far for Itty Bitty City, according to its senior director of development and marketing Jennifer McMenamin. She said the goal is to increase foot traffic in the science center that saw a dip in attendance last year.

“I think it’s really going to expand Sci-Port’s audience down to our youngest visitor. We’ve really expanded our audience in the past couple years with programs that are designed just for the adults -- the 21-plus crowd -- but now I think we’re really honing in on that pre-K level," McMenamin said.

Tom Kraemer, president of the design firm, stresses museum uniqueness. He said visitors will be able to climb into the shell of an airplane that will be perched above Itty Bitty City. It's a nod to Barksdale’s B-52s. Many science centers are building new attractions within their existing footprint, according to Kraemer, whose firm currently works with about 30 museums and theme parks nationwide.

“We like to connect Shreveport and the surrounding area into this basically new museum component to this science center, which is kind of a unique thing. We’ve noticed that nationwide trend that some of these science centers get that younger visitor to come in, and they will age into the next level of the science center," Kraemer said.

Sci-Port aims to open Itty Bitty City in fall 2015. Additional phases of fundraising include upgrading its Red River Gallery and converting its IMAX Dome Theatre to a digital format.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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