Children's Museum hosts adults-only after hours parties with bar, bands

Winnipeg's Children's Museum is trying out a new strategy to help raise cash — they're inviting adults to party there at night.

Children's Museum opens doors to adults for after-hours parties to raise cash for underprivileged kids

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      Winnipeg's Children's Museum is trying out a new strategy to help raise cash — they're inviting adults to party there at night.

      "People that are in their early 20s now, even pushing into their 30s, they remember coming to the Children's Museum when they were younger, and they want to come back," said museum services co-ordinator, Mario Labossiere. 

      The museum has launched a series of events — dubbed Seriously Adult — which see the museum open to adults only after hours, and a bar is installed in the back in order to tap a market of people who aren't likely to hit up a fundraising gala or go to a golf tournament.
      One of the Children's Museum's exhibits blasts air into the face of a young visitor. The museum is holding adults-only nights to raise money for underprivileged kids to visit the museum. (Children’s Museum photograph courtesy of Ebonie Klassen Photography)

      "They just think it's the coolest thing to be able to walk around with a drink in their hand and do all those fun things," said Labossiere. "It's not something you can say you do all the time."

      So far, they've hosted a trivia night, a comedy night and coming up — an indie night with local bands Mise en Scene, ATLAAS and French Press.

      And adults aren't asked to stay off the exhibits — they're encouraged to get in and play.

      "With our policies, we can't always allowed unaccompanied adults into the museum for various safety reasons so having these after hours adult-only events gives us a lot of options," said Labossiere. "They can play in the train. They can crawl up the Lasagna Lookout Tower. They can milk a cow, but then they can also listen to some music, hear some comedians ... and just have a great time."

      And the idea is paying off. Each event raises between $5,000 and $7,500 dollars.

      But organizers are hoping to get more for their next event.

      "We have a Free to Play access program, which brings under-supported children to the museum for free, and we really believe in making this place accessible to as many people as possible," said Lisa Dziedzic, the museum's marketing director. "It's a huge amount of money that it takes to be able to fund that program. That's why we do it."

      Dziedzic hopes to raise enough money from Nov. 7's indie night to bring 1,000 underprivileged kids to the museum.

      Children's Museum hit by funding cut

      "We've had fundraising galas and special event dinners and golf tournaments, things like that, and we're finding the rate of return on [Seriously Adult events] is actually been higher than we've been able to do over the past number of years with those types of events," explained Dziedzic.
      A careful counting system ensures every cap, bottle and cup are accounted for after the adults-only nights at the Children's Museum. (Curtis Shonoski)

      And the museum needs the cash. They generate 86 per cent of their own revenue from ticket sales and special events, with only 14 per cent coming from government funding.

      Other local museums get a lot more. 

      "As a children's museum we don't quite qualify for the same heritage or historical funding that lots of other institutions in the city can [get]" said Dziedzic.

      The museum also saw its funding cut last year, when the City of Winnipeg made across-the-board cuts to arts funding.

      "There's cuts all over the place so it is a hard thing to try and rely on government funding to do," she said.

      Massive clean-up, strict counts keep it safe

      But there are risks with inviting adults into a children's space to drink and play — the museum has to go through a massive cleanup before it can be reopened, and every cup, bottle and beer cap has to be counted so none go missing. 

      "We scrub, and we pull apart things that are never pulled apart just to make sure that there isn't a bottle cap somewhere that shouldn't be there," said Labossiere.

      All that so adults can splash in a water lab, take apart a jumbo Jenga set, clamber up and down play structures or whiz down a kaleidoscope slide. 

      The hardest part, Labossiere and Dziedzic said, is trying to get the word out that the events are happening.

      "We're still in the brainstorming part of it," said Labossiere. "Some things have been working really stellar and some have not."

      Working on a shoe-string budget and relying on volunteer services means they're only able to put on a few of the events a year — but at least for now, the museum plans to keep hosting them to raise money for underprivileged kids.

      The next Seriously Adult event at the Children's Museum is on Nov. 7. Mise en Scene, French Press and ATLAAS will all play sets. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 7:30 p.m.