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Meet Catherine Mi Welch of Southern California Children’s Museum in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Catherine Mi Welch.

Catherine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always had a passion for serving the community and have been volunteering with various non-profits since my teen years at Pasadena’s Polytechnic School. After moving from San Diego back to Pasadena in 2008, I became active with the Junior League of Pasadena where I met many of the women whom I continue to work with in the non-profit sector. It is with these women that I co-founded Southern California Children’s Museum. At the time, we were all new moms with toddlers at home and needed a space where we could come together with our children and experience play-based learning. Since then, we’ve brought on more women all looking to achieve the same goal! We’ve forged long-lasting friendships and a deep understanding of what it takes unite around a common vision.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Running a non-profit is never a smooth road! But, we’ve learned a ton and have had a lot of fun along the way. It’s amazing to see all that we have built and accomplished. From a museum without walls to a temporary space in the South Lake Avenue District and now in our permanent home in the Playhouse District; it’s been a labor of love! We’ve worked hard to show parents and families the importance of play in the lives of young children and continue to develop meaningful partnerships with other community organizations. We just opened our first permanent exhibit, Wild California! The exhibit was installed in our museum in January 2020 and teaches about the ecology and recreational opportunities offered within Southern California’s biomes. Our exhibit emphasizes physical and social-dramatic development through high-energy physical activities and imaginative spaces.

Southern California Children’s Museum – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a non-profit children’s museum for kids up to eight years old. We specialize in sensory and pretend play, with a focus on arts and culture. Our mission is to cultivate a child’s wonder, stimulate curiosity, and motivate learning through interactive exhibits, creative experiences, and dramatic play, all while promoting the diverse cultures of Southern California. We’re all about collaborating and have worked with many local artists, authors, and illustrators to bring a fun, unique perspective on children’s education to our space! We have areas specifically created for messy play, process art, and understanding big emotions and feelings as children grow. In addition to all of our programming, we have plans to launch a Community Partner Play Pass, ensuring that more underprivileged children are able to access the museum. Our long-term strategic goal is to be a free Museum for All.

Due to COVID-19, our museum is temporarily closed. To stay connected with our community, we’ve pivoted our approach and embraced the idea of “children’s museum at home.” We brought our popular Story and Craft program online, including collaborating with some phenomenal authors. We created a Summer Book Club, hosted by children’s book author Larissa Theule. We are developing additional original content to keep children engaged and entertained. We have also been curating and sharing resources through our social media accounts. Whether it’s at-home play ideas or how to talk to children about anti-racism, our goal is to help parents navigate this trying time.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Being a mom! Raising little humans is the hardest and most important work I do. I’m proud of myself and every mom I know for doing their best and always showing up — even more so during the challenges of the last several months in the middle of a pandemic, WFH, and a movement to make sure our kids do a better job including others and fighting against racial and social injustices than we have.

Contact Info:

We would love your support so we can continue to bring new programming and resources to our community! To donate, please visit http://socalkids.org/donate/


Image Credit:

Julie Shuford Photography, Juicebox Media and Coloring Without Borders

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