A Catalyst for Education
January 17, 2012
Maria Farrington, CEO of the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum in Salt Lake City, has a strong vision for the future of the museum and will not compromise those goals. After only two and a half years as the head of the museum, Farrington has already accomplished a great deal and shows no signs of slowing down.
“I don’t want the status quo. I really want to grow into our potential,” she says. “We are committed to not only making [the museum] state of the art, [but] one of the best in the Western part of the United States.”
Farrington, a Texas native, has always had a strong interest in museums and children’s education. She received bachelor’s degrees from the University of Houston in history and political science, and shortly thereafter starting working for a cultural museum. This position sparked her interest in childhood education, as she worked directly with schools visiting the museum. She later continued working in the education field by serving as the executive director of an organization that brokered health and social services to schools in the San Antonio area.
“My career has always centered in some facet of education.” she says. “I enjoy it.”
Farrington relocated to Utah a number of years ago and began working as the director of community building for United Way. This position gave Farrington additional experience in the nonprofit sector and gave her an in-depth look at the needs and assets of the Salt Lake area.
Farrington used this knowledge to her advantage when she started working with the Discovery Gateway in 2002 after being nominated to be on the board of directors. After serving on both the board of directors and the executive committee, Farrington accepted the position of CEO of the museum in early 2008.
The Discovery Gateway is currently the largest children’s museum in the Intermountain West and has a number of permanent exhibits. Popular exhibits include the “media zone,” where children can try their skills as a television news anchor, and “the studio,” where visitors can create pieces of art and conduct science experiments. All of the exhibits are highly interactive and are designed to help children discover their talents and interests.
“Ours is a catalyst business. We catalyze dreams and imagination in Discovery, and that is fun to work on,” she says.
One of Farrington’s main focuses as CEO of the museum is providing new and diverse experiences to visitors. Many of these experiences are made possible by partnering with various organizations including Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Clark Planetarium and Utah Symphony Orchestra. These organizations come to the museum and teach dance classes, conduct science experiments and host interactive workshops.
“We are introducing our audience to a whole new art form, a whole new activity,” says Farrington. “They love it.”
In the future, Farrington hopes that the museum will continue to expand and introduce new experiences to Utah’s ever-growing population of children.
“We have a fantastic potential because we are in a community where there are more children under the age of 20 years old per capita than any other state. For us that is an asset.” says Farrington. “We have a long way to go … [but] we can do it.”