Julie Bryan is the Executive Director of SPARK! Imagination and Science Center located in Morgantown, West Virginia. SPARK! Imagination and Science Center is a non-profit hands-on children’s museum and science center that inspires people of all ages to explore science and the arts through hands-on exhibits and programs that spark a lifelong love of learning.
Spark’s museum has exhibits that encourage visitors to explore nanoscience, engineering, dinosaurs, Outerspace, health and their imaginations. Bryan has been with the museum since 2011. She fell in love with museum work while working at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson, Arizona. After receiving her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Classics, Bryan worked at the Tucson Children’s Museum.
In 2015, she received the Small Museum Association – Hunter-Burley award, which recognizes an individual’s outstanding contributions to the advancement of public access and professional growth for an individual institution.
Bryan talked with Jim Matuga, host of The Positively West Virginia Podcast, about her organization and how exciting it is to see children learn about the science world.
How did you get started in this line of work?
“I come from a music education background, so when I was in school at the University of Alabama, I took a class where I could be a docent at the museum at the university and so I just gave tours to groups there. I got excited about the idea of informal learning and where kids get to learn while having fun and experience things. I then did a lot of work in history and children’s museums while moving around a lot until we ended up in Morgantown,” said Bryan.
What is the thing you’re most excited about for your organization- right now?
“We just got a new space exhibit, which is cool. It is one that we wrote a grant for and recently got it signed. Kids have this opportunity to build with different materials. They can build a spacecraft and then strap it to a table then spin it to see if it would stay together. It is really enjoyable to see what they build and see the thinking process they have when building it. There is also a place where they can learn about how scientists can see invisible things using magnets and infrared cameras,” said Bryan.
How are you funded and how many employees do you have?
“We do have some earned income, but that only gives us less than half of what we need to run the museum. You pay admission to come in, but we are part of the museums for all, which means that if you get benefits like an EBT card, then we wave your admission so that way we can be available to everyone,” said Bryan.
“We also do birthday parties that generate some income as well and we also write grants. We rely on and need donations from businesses as well as individuals because we are a non-profit and need support to do what we do. Staff-wise it is me and two part-time staff that are absolutely amazing; they both graduated from Fairmont State University and both native to the state. We also get a graduate assistant intern from West Virginia University,” said Bryan.
Where are you located right now?
“We are in the Mountaineer Mall off of Greenbag Road and we have an outdoor entrance so you can drive right up and come in without going through the mall,” said Bryan.
Bryan was a guest on The Positively West Virginia Podcast. Listen to his full podcast here.
PWV QUICK BITS | SPARK! IMAGINATION AND SCIENCE CENTER
- ATTRIBUTES OF AN EFFECTIVE LEADER: “Trusting your team and being open to options,” said Bryan.
- RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: West Virginia Nonprofit Association