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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 28th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 3 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 3

Discovery Museum appoints an executive director

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

The once-foundering Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum has officially hired interim director Chris Slaughter as the museum’s executive director.

Slaughter started serving as interim director for the museum in October 2013 after a long summer of working with a small group of community members to pull the museum back from the brink of financial collapse. She played her role in the giddy-up process as more of a volunteer than a paid hand, but now that the museum is at a solid trot, with a board of directors in place and a set of trained employees, the board decided to get a full-time executive director in place to help get the museum running at full speed.

Board President Diane Adam said the museum put the word out on Craigslist and a website that advertises nonprofit jobs and received four applications, one of which was Slaughter’s. Because Adam and Slaughter have worked together on and off over the last 14 years, Adam recused herself from the interviewing process and left applicant vetting up to the remainder of the board.

“[The board] came to the conclusion that, given where we’re at and where we want to go, Chris was the best person for the job,” Adam said. “She does have a deep understanding of how nonprofit boards work.”

Slaughter has an extensive history with the Discovery Museum that dates back to at least 2002, when she helped launch the initial capital campaign with Adam. That campaign raised the money needed to construct the building the museum has been housed in for the last 10 years. Slaughter also helped found the Orcutt Children’s Arts Foundation, a nonprofit that funds art programs in the Orcutt Union School District, and, in 2013, she was appointed as a trustee of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

The Discovery Museum’s financial shortfalls began showing in 2012. Coupled with some leadership changes, and a shrinking board of directors, the nonprofit was brought to its knees at the beginning of summer 2013. For the first couple of months, museum operations were day to day, and, slowly, things got moving again. The Santa Maria community pulled together; volunteers began fixing up faded and broken exhibits; and organizations that helped the museum get its start—the Hutton Parker and the Santa Barbara foundations—came back to the table with funding.

Slaughter said things have come a long way in the last nine months and that the museum has moved forward faster than originally planned.

“There isn’t a single hole in the wall that isn’t supposed to be there,” Slaughter said. “The building is fully functioning, and it looks great, and every day someone says ‘this place looks great,’ and that’s so affirming for all the hard work that we’ve done.”

She said her next set of goals for the museum include finding funding sources specifically targeted toward creating new programs and exhibits, as well as establishing an endowment fund that would sustain the museum’s long-term operations.

“We just had so much work to do and we’ve done the work to get the museum back on its feet, and we have a long way to go,” Slaughter said. “We have our feet on the ground, and we’re ready to roll.”

While the museum’s board of directors has grown from just four members in October 2013 to 12 members, it’s still hunting for a few more members—particularly people with accounting and law experience.

Board meetings are the third Wednesday of every month at 4 p.m.

Those interested in finding out more can contact Adam at diane@adambros.com.

The fifth annual Discovery Museum Family Kit Festival is coming up on April 13 from noon to 4 p.m. at Rotary Centennial Park.

For more information, contact the Discovery Museum at 928-8414.