Elizabeth Yang-Hellewell

Teatro pinata

A “New” Leader to Think, Play and Create

The New Children’s Museum welcomed Elizabeth Yang-Hellewell as its new Executive Director and CEO on January 3, 2022. A seasoned museum professional, Yang-Hellewell has long been inspired by The New Children’s Museum’s mission to stimulate imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children through contemporary art.

“I have always been taken with the concept and stunningly creative execution of the installations at The New Children’s Museum, first as a museum professional and community member, and now as a parent,” she explained upon accepting the position. “I am incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to lead this institution and serve San Diego, our children and contemporary artists.”

Yang-Hellewell has dedicated her career to supporting the work of living artists, educators and arts education programming in museums. She believes The New Children’s Museum has established itself as a beloved community resource and brilliantly innovative model for both children’s museums and contemporary art spaces. She is looking forward to building on their impactful work with a commitment to developing increasingly diverse, equitable, inclusive, accessible – and of course fun – experiences and opportunities for communities inside and outside the Museum.

“I believe that real, authentic, actionable change around diversity, equity, access and inclusion (DEAI) in museums begins on the inside of the organizations. In practice, this begins with examining who is sitting at the table making decisions. If decisions about audiences and community are being made, the voices of those people should be represented in clear and transparent decision-making processes. Continuing to do the critical work of making space for a diverse array of voices in how this museum moves forward is one of my priorities as I step into this role.”

The new leader’s arrival comes after the Museum’s successful phased reopening following a 14-month pandemic closure. In the latter half of 2021, the Museum introduced several new art commissions including Brian and the Bugs (Katie Ruiz), El Más Allá (Panca), The Wonder Sound Garden (Wes Bruce), In the Balance (Risa Puno) and Teatro Piñata (David Israel Reynoso). The Museum also recently opened its first satellite location, the Art + Play Space, in Del Mar Plaza.

“Children’s museums are unique spaces for play, exploration, learning and personal expression. Having positive and memorable museum experiences as a child can hopefully lead to feeling welcome in, and a part of, the larger cultural dialogue in museums as an adult,” Yang-Hellewell shared with GB Magazine.

Prior to joining the arts-based children’s museum, Yang-Hellewell served as Chief Advancement Officer and member of the executive leadership team at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD). She was responsible for an annual operating budget of $6 million and part of the team that raised $86 million for MCASD’s La Jolla campus expansion (public opening slated for April 2022).

Elizabeth Yang-Hellewell, a graduate of Smith College, lives in South Bay with her wife and two young children, who are excited about her new position. “Our children have spent a lot of time in more traditional museum spaces, and they are thrilled with the idea of being able to touch and play in (and on) the art at The New Children’s Museum!”

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Esteban Villanueva