A 50,000 square foot, state-of-the-art, modern structure sits at the corner of Front and Island in downtown San Diego. Designed by renowned local architect, Rob Quigley, The New Children’s Museum often has a line of parents and children around the block. The daily visitors are what CEO/Executive Director Judy Forrester sees as the “bright future of our community.” In a world where turmoil, divisiveness and struggles are featured more than a future alive with hope and promise, Forrester invites the community to visit and be inspired.
Since 2008, The New Children’s Museum has touched over 1.25 million lives and played an important role in San Diego. It is a place where play flourishes, creativity expands and families connect. The Museum introduces children to art in approachable ways and opens the world of museums to them. Every day children try new things, explore their imagination and realize their capabilities while developing 21st century skills through play and the joy of discovery.
Judy Forrester was recruited to the Museum in December 2015 when the Board was looking to take the organization to the next level. Charged with evaluating the business model and advancing its long term growth and sustainability, Forrester set out to do what she does best: help nonprofits grow.
With over two decades of nonprofit and community leadership, coupled with experience managing local philanthropy, Forrester brings proven best practices to the organizations she serves. When asked what the ‘secret’ is, Forrester says “Being a nonprofit doesn’t mean that you don’t operate like a business. Most of the best practices of running a successful business can be applied to nonprofits.”
Her management style is also a big part of the equation. Forrester believes in empowering her teams - providing strategic direction along with the freedom to do their best work. Her warmth and encouragement set a positive tone that inspires those around her. Under Forrester’s leadership, the Museum’s team has grown attendance and memberships by double digits, more than 20%, over prior year.
“Access to art and the creative process has a positive impact on the lives of children,” said Tiffany Archer, the Museum’s Board Chair, “and we believe that opportunity should be available to all. No one takes that more seriously than Judy. As CEO, she has put a good organization on the path to excellence through her thoughtful, team-oriented leadership and her ability to create meaningful connections throughout our community.”
Forrester believes that building strong partnerships is essential to the quality of life in our community and the long-term success of the organizations she serves. One such partnership is with Southwest Airlines. “Southwest Airlines has generously partnered with us, helping build capacity and sustainability in many of the partnerships we have formed,” she shares. “As a key supporter of the Museum, Southwest will be flying our leadership and creative teams to top children’s and science museums in major cities nationwide, allowing us to connect with them and share best practices.”
“As they say, every great city should have a great children’s museum,” said Forrester. “And we certainly do. I’m proud of the work we are doing. With our unique combination of art, science, creativity and play, we are working to help children develop the 21st century skills they need to be successful in an exceptionally joyful environment.”