The New Children's Museum

Think Play Create

San Diego, CA   |


The New Children's Museum is a new model of children's museum whose mission is to stimulate imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children and families through inventive and engaging experiences with contemporary art. We encourage and empower children to think, play and create through interactive exhibitions, engaging art-making activities, captivating artistic performances and education opportunities.

Ruling year info


Executive Director/CEO

Ms. Elizabeth Yang-Hellewell

Main address

200 W Island Ave

San Diego, CA 92101 USA

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Formerly known as

Children's Museum San Diego/Museo de los Ninos



NTEE code info

Museum & Museum Activities (A50)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Museum’s emphasis on open-ended play is one way to combat today’s trend of declining playtime. This trend is due to reduced school funding that has cancelled recess and art/music electives, various screens, and time constraints that favor structured playdates or test-prep classes. Children’s need for play is fundamental and basic. Infants begin playing almost immediately after birth and continue even in dire circumstances like in prisons or extreme poverty. Through play, children learn about the world and social relationships; they can test out ideas and build skills like resiliency. It is how children learn best when young and is an expression of joy and good health. Similarly, children need art. Art and art-making boost critical thinking as children problem solve in different media and processes. It provides exposure to varied cultures, ideas, and historical periods. Per Americans for the Arts, children in the arts are more engaged/motivated at school.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Exhibitions + Studios

The New Children’s Museum focuses on early childhood learning through creative exploration and play in its inventive and engaging art installations and studios. It is a non-collecting museum that presents original, full-scale, room-sized works of art in its gallery spaces. Children of all ages and abilities can experience art in ways that are meaningful to them, for instance to touch, jump, climb, and crawl as they physically explore commissioned art installations. Each is notable for its aesthetics, conceptual ideas, creativity, playability, and layered interactions. (See

The Museum also offers art-making and educational themes in studios, through drop-in activities, and scheduled workshops that are free with admission. This includes The Rosso Family Innovators LAB, a makerspace for art and STEAM-based projects; The Paint + Clay Studio where visitors sculpt and paint; and Toddler Time workshops that include finger painting, yoga, and singing.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The New Children's Museum integrates current education practices and theory into everything it does. In addition to school visits to the Museum, this includes its exhibitions, studio activities, camps, and workshops. It works closely with schools and educators to provide standards-based curriculum to complement their classwork with students.

The Museum offers options for the nearly 180 different schools that come each year from all over San Diego County, serving many thousands of students/teachers through visits. As described below under Access, about 60% of these school visitors come through the Museum’s Title I program at no cost to them. To complement these visits of for individual use, the Museum posts free art-based lesson plans on its website for teachers to use in the classroom.

Educational practices foundational to the Museum’s full range of activities include a focus on early childhood learning and include:
• Child-directed play
• Open-ended play
• Group and other social play
• Loose parts theory
• Authentic experiences
• Visual literacy skills
• Playwork theory

The Museum presents Educators Night Out every October. It welcomes 250+ teachers and administrators to a free open house where they can explore what the Museum offers as well as visit the booths of 25-30 other organizations and museums who come for the evening. The evening concludes with an optional guest speaker who speaks about a current topic of interest to educators.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Serving the community is a part of The New Children's Museum’s strategic plan. Over the past 12 years, the needs of Hispanic and minority neighborhoods have been continually discussed with stakeholders, and the imperative to meet these needs has long been emphasized by the Board. The Museum has built relationships with hundreds of social service agencies, schools, and community leaders. Fueled by research showing that students from low socio-economic backgrounds who are exposed to the arts make greater academic and professional increases than their more privileged peers, the Museum serves children and family members through robust programs that provide free and discounted entrance.

The Museum’s access programs (with numbers from 2019) include:

• Salute Our Troops – The Museum’s largest access program provides active military visitors a safe place where children and parents can play, away from worries about deployment, budgets, and work. Over 25,000 were served in 2019, including through group visits with USO San Diego, Support The Enlisted Program (STEP), and Museum Pass options.

• School Visits/Title I – Students, teachers, and chaperones came for free or at discounted rates for arts education. Tours and activities emphasized student-centered discussions and visual literacy. Many included art-making activities led by the Museum’s Teaching Artists. Of the 12,607 served in 2019, more than 50% were from Title I schools and Head Start programs.

• Museums For All – This newest program served 11,891 low-income visitors that used EBT card (food benefits/WIC) for $1 admission.

• Check Out The New Children’s Museum – City and County library branches (60+) offer free admission passes that can be checked out for ten days, like a book. This program reached 8,033 visitors in 2019.

• pARTners in Creativity – Served 1,760 children/chaperones from 12 social service agencies working with abuse/neglect, homelessness, low literacy, mental and physical disabilities, substance abuse, and migrant issues. Groups enjoy free visits in a safe environment geared to their needs.

• Accessibility Mornings – 355 children with disabilities and their family/caretakers explored the Museum’s exhibitions/activities in 2019, coming on designated mornings before the noise and crowds.

• Other – Kids Free October, Museum Month in February, cross-membership promotions, and other initiatives provide even more opportunities to visit the Museum for free or nearly free each year.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

The New Children’s Museum has grown its community outreach efforts in recent years, including dedicated staff and new programs to engage families and children in creativity. The following outreach programs served 4,745 children and families in 2019, focusing on lower-income, primarily immigrant and Latino neighborhoods.

• Mass Creativity Day and Workshops – Since 2013, this program has impacted more than 20 diverse community groups where Museum artists lead free art-making workshops each spring. In 2019, it included a series of hands-on art making workshops led by professional artists with the assistance of Museum staff at seven community centers in the San Diego region: Barrio Logan College Institute, Barrio Logan; Casa Familiar; San Ysidro; Made in Paradise Hills, Paradise Hills; The San Diego LGBT Community Center, Hillcrest; Solutions for Change, Vista; South Bay Community Services, Chula Vista; and Southern Sudanese Community Center, City Heights. Workshops participants and the public came to the Museum and park on June 22, 2019 for Mass Creativity Day, a free festival of art-making, music, and fun.

• Mass Creativity: Comunidad and Mi Familia, Mi Historia – These newer programs (funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and California Humanities, respectively) strive to deepen community engagement as their primary goals. They help the Museum served many additional families from the underserved, border communities of San Diego.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Where we work


National Medal for Museum and Library Service 2019

Institute for Museum and Library Services

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of people engaging with NCM both at the Musesum and throughout the community.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Families

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Context Notes

Includes daily admission, group visits and event attendees. Also includes Art/Learning Kits distributed currently and while Museum was closed in 2020-21 during California's mandated Covid closure.

Percent of total that came for free/nearly free through programs targeting community groups who might not otherwise come to the Museum.

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Families, Economically disadvantaged people

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Activities during Covid closure focused on serving Title I schools and nonprofit partners who received Art/Learning Kits.

Total children/adult visitors via active military programs/workshops/discounts, including Blue Star Museums

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Children and youth, Families, Military personnel

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success


Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Museum’s goal is to help children develop the 21st century skills that will help them succeed in school and in life. Its theory of change builds on the experience of small successes and quick fails as children decide what and how to engage during open play and art activities at the Museum. The experiences reinforce the development of confidence, optimism, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, and resiliency. The Museum’s various education and community partners have identified these skills as important to their organizational mission.

The Museum further believes that the experiences of play and artmaking that it offers encourages children to develop the capacities necessary for leading happy and productive lives.

As noted under Programs, The New Children’s Museum’s educational focus on early childhood learning includes an emphasis on child-directed, open-ended play, loose parts theory, authentic experiences, visual literacy skills and playwork theory.

These philosophical underpinnings inform the Museum’s strategies to:
• Commission diverse artists who work in/with the community as part of their development of a child-centered installation.
• Offer studio spaces next to the art installations where children engage in hands-on art-making experiences with different tools, materials, and processes.
• Ensure that its Teaching Artists and Playworkers have training and tools to understand and meet the needs of the playing/learning child and supporting adult.
• Play a crucial role in the San Diego by serving community and social service organizations to help them achieve their missions.

The New Children’s Museum is led by a successful leadership team of five passionate professionals. Each has substantial expertise and management experience in their fields, and actively participate in industry boards and advocacy. They empower their teams to creatively explore solutions, refinements, and new options for visiting children and families.

Financial viability is especially important to the capability of the Museum. The Museum’s seasoned Development team helps makes the Museum’s growing visitorship and quality engagement possible.

The Museum’s Board of Directors is also highly committed to the Museum’s mission. Each of 22 men and women contributes financially and in other ways to ensure the Museum’s success. This has resulted in the Museum’s expansion and recognition as a community resource.

In recognition of its capabilities, the Museum was just awarded the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service (one of five museums nationwide). This annual award given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services is based on a congressional nomination and overall contributions to public welfare. It is considered the highest national honor for museums and libraries.

2019 marked The New Children’s Museum’s 36th year of bringing creative play and art-making to the lives of San Diego children and families. It welcomed 317,943 visitors and celebrated its 10th year in its downtown location. Widespread access continues to be cornerstone of its philosophy; more than 25% of its visitors – over 80,000 in 2019 – come for free or at very discounted rates through an array of community access initiatives.

The Museum commissioned renowned international artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam to create an awe-inspiring playscape made entirely of hand-dyed and crocheted nylon. The art piece, Whammock!, opened in June 2019 and is the most ambitious installation in The New Children’s Museum’s history. It sets the path for future projects of international significance.

The Museum’s strategic plan emphasizes three areas:
• Strengthen the core business – including to achieve financial and operational excellence and to strengthen and maintain staff and board
• Substantiate work through evaluation and research
• Expand the Museum’s reach and disseminate findings

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, for formal program evaluations

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time


The New Children's Museum

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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The New Children's Museum

Board of directors
as of 11/27/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms Caroline Perry

San Diego Padres

Term: 2021 - 2023

Jim Brown

Public Architecture and Founder, Bread + Salt

Kurt Eve

One Communications

Edwardo Gillison

Lockheed Martin

Greg Gossard

Hampstead Companies

Robert Marasco

Dinsmore & Shohl

Wendi McKenna

Move, Play, Grow

Merrilee Neal

Community Philanthropist

Chris Russo

National University

Caroline Perry

San Diego Padres

Dennis Bauer

Cox Media

Brent Douglas

Martenson, Hasbrouck & Simon

Stephanie Epstein

Epstein Family Foundation

Rebecca Gennaro

Well Fargo Private Bank

Marisol Rendon

Artist, Designer + Educator

Bill Watkins

Solar Turbines Inc.

Lynda Forsha

Art Advisory Services, Principal + Murals of La Jolla

Nicole Gates

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.

Erica Opstad

U.S. Bank

Maryanne Pfister

Community Member & Philanthropist

Claudia Amescua

QUALCOMM Incorporated

Cindy Bravo

La Jolla Country Day School

Danielle Moore

Sheppard Mullin

Bill Payne

Second Chance

Lawrence Taylor

Brandes Investments

Brian Van Hatten


Priya Huggett

Brixton Capitol

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/27/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Asian/Asian American
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other sexual orientations in the LGBTQIA+ community
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data


No data

Sexual orientation

No data


No data