The new climbing playspace coming to the Children’s Discovery Museum will be more accessible to those with disabilities and could become an eye-catching after-hours feature for Uptown.
The museum recently learned it will receive a $568,700 state grant for the new climber. It will replace the 16-year-old climber that now overlooks the circle on the building’s northwest corner.
Concept drawings show multiple levels of brightly colored climbing petals surrounded by cables and a see-through floor and wall. The design will open new spaces for wheelchairs and strollers to access the surrounding area and its exciting views of the floors above and below.
“We’re trying to create a space that’s circular, so you can move around the full climber, even if you can’t enter it,” said museum executive director Beth Whisman. “Which means you can be close to the experience. You can reach into the experience. And we’re adding some of the excitement that you’d get in the climber but on the outside of it, and you’re not missing everything.”
The current climber is carpeted, which is not easy to clean. The new one will use molded plastic.
“We’ve always been vigilant about cleaning our climber, but COVID-19 presented new challenges regarding speed and ease of cleaning high-touch surfaces in tight spaces,” Whisman said. “We took this opportunity to rethink several aspects of the exhibit to improve access to play and overall sanitation.”
The climber's lighting can be responsive, which could enhance the museum's role in Uptown placemaking, even after-hours, she said.
"At night, it could be a (type) of public art. During our festivals, it's possible we could make the lights responsive to outside sounds, so it could be 'dancing' with a concert. There are lots of opportunities we're exploring. But our concept is to give it a whole new life," Whisman said.
The new climber will be installed within the next two years. The museum is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic. When the museum does reopen, families will also have access to a new medical exhibit on the first floor. That was funded with private donations.
The climber funding is from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Public Museums Capital Grant Program. Also receiving money in this cycle will be Miller Park Zoo, which is getting $750,000 for its South America exhibit.
Reindeer Riddles fundraiser
Meanwhile, the museum is raising money in December through a new game called Reindeer Riddles. Find and answer riddles in each Uptown store window for a chance to win $500 cash.
The game runs Tuesday through Dec. 31. Learn more about how to play.
There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.