A Cultural Initiative

Deborah Spiegelman Leads Miami Children's Museum

Miami Children’s Museum (MCM) started in 1983 in a 2,000 square foot storefront located in a West Kendall shopping center. Today, the 56,500 square foot facility on Watson Island is a Florida landmark that attracts children and families from all over South Florida and the world.

At the helm is MCM’s CEO and executive director, Deborah Spiegelman, who has been with the museum since 1992 and CEO since 2000. The Miami native has 25 years of experience in the non-profit industry and oversaw MCM’s capital campaign and move to Watson Island five years ago. Armed with a business background that began at the University of Miami where she earned her degree, Spiegelman has initiated partnerships and business strategies that have enabled the museum to flourish.

In fact, rumor has it that Spiegelman is currently in negotiations with Warner Brothers to launch a Wizard of Oz exhibit that will celebrate the film’s 70th anniversary. Of course, MCM needs to raise the upfront dollars, and when they do, the exhibit will turn into a continuing revenue stream as it travels the world.

Another one of Spiegelman’s business strategies is MCM’s partnerships with the local hotels. “A lot of the hotels are going back to family based marketing,” she explained. “Miami Children’s Museum has camps during many of the holidays and school breaks and the museum brings these camps to the hotels. We also like to think of ourselves as a designer boutique. If a hotel wants a VIP tour for their guests, we’re more than happy to give them the same kind of tour that we give for our fieldtrips and school groups.”

Yet, even with their impressive marketing campaigns, MCM remains a community institution. The fully independent museum – the only independent one in South Florida with a $6 million budget — has formed a partnership with Target for their “Target Third Free Fridays,” which was established to serve the underserved communities.

“We are a child’s first introduction to a cultural world,” said Spiegelman. “By children coming and participating, and by parents and grandparents bringing their children to the museum, we’re building the next generation of cultural supporters. Kids learn that a museum is a great place to go, and they have fun here.”

An example of MCM bringing the cultural world to children can be seen in their film program. “We run a film institute,” said Spiegelman, “which is a ten week course at the museum. In the spring of each year we get entries for our film festival. What started locally 12 years ago has grown to where we now receive national entries.”

A major source of funding for MCM’s cultural programs comes from their annual Be a Kid Again gala. This year’s gala takes place on Saturday, September 27 and the theme is the Funtastic Fifties with co-chairs Carlos Garcia, Norma Quintero and Jana Sigars-Malina. The night of good times and rock n’ roll will benefit the museum’s arts and educational programming.

“Community donations account for 35 percent of our operating budget, and the Be a Kid Again gala is a vital aspect for raising the funds,” explained Spiegelman. “Plus, it’s not your typical gala. It’s a big, blown out cocktail party. Adults get to come in and explore the museum as if they were kids again. ”

MCM’s 14 galleries will be designed to take attendees back to the days of sock hops and drive-in movies. So, come out for a fun evening and help Miami Children’s Museum raise the funds that allow for MCM to be a child’s first cultural experience. For more information, or to buy tickets, call 305-373-KIDS (5437), ext. 127.

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