St. George Children’s Museum welcomes familiar face as new director

ST. GEORGE — Members of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and St. George Children’s Museum welcomed a familiar face into the role of executive director during a special luncheon on Thursday.

The St. George Children’s Museum board chair Kurt Ivie announces the new museum director, Will Craven, at a luncheon, St. George, Utah, Aug. 17, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

After attendees dined on a Mexican meal, the museum’s board chair Kurt Ivie welcomed chamber members and leaders to the third floor of the museum to announce the hiring of Will Craven as the new director for the children’s play paradise.

“We like it that kids love it here,” Ivie said. “And now we are blessed with tremendous employees and a new director.”

Ivie described Craven as “creative by nature” and a “lover of education,” continuously driven to help the youth succeed.

Craven is taking over for Sonya Darter who was reportedly dismissed by the museum board of directors for reasons not released. Ivie said there were over 50 applicants for the position from all over the country.

(L-R): The St. George Children’s Museum’s new director, Will Craven, and chamber president Shawn Christensen talk during a luncheon, St. George, Utah, Aug. 17, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Craven previously was employed as the interactive exhibit designer and creator of the museum. In addition to helping create multiple remodeling of exhibits within the last couple of years, he also added new interactive features to the exhibit and served as a principal designer for the new Desert Discovery Room that opened in February.

Following a round of applause by the chamber, Craven spoke about his vision and what he aims to accomplish while leading the St. George Children’s Museum.

The Children’s Museum opened in November 2013 after receiving a hefty donation of over $1 million worth of materials from the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. Originally built in 1911, the building previously housed Dixie Academy and also was once home to Dixie High School and Dixie College students until the 1960s.

“I am very thankful for the trust and support the board has placed upon me to move forward in order to develop the museum,” Craven said.

Craven said he grew up a huge fan of Legos and Lincoln Logs, which he used to build whole new worlds. And it was through this engagement he developed an appreciation for the role of play in education.

“When we look at our own lives, our own experiences growing up and moving from childhood into adulthood, one of the things we often don’t think about is that we had a job as a kid and our job was to learn … and it happened through play,” he said.

It’s through play that people learn about and engage with the complexities of the world, he said, adding that the museum serves as a tool for members of the community and beyond.

Craven said he hopes to add a full-time educator to the staff to assist in the endeavors of helping children learn more efficiently. He plans to facilitate comprehensive reviews of each exhibit to see how their educational value can be enhanced, such as by adding more technological advances or more interactive experiences.

Increasing accessibility for parents to interact with their children while observing and playing is another goal Craven outlined. He said he also foresees more programs and classes returning to the museum that will serve those with learning disabilities or special needs.

The St. George Children’s Museum volunteers participate in a congratulatory luncheon for the new director, St. George, Utah, Aug. 17, 2023 | Photo by Nick Yamashita, St. George News

Lastly, he said he wants to build the presence and reputation of the museum within the community, through business, volunteers and respect. This includes targeting underserved groups within the community.

Craven thanked his staff — introducing them one at a time — acknowledging each for their hard work, talents and skills.

“Now you see why we hired him,” Ivie said when Craven finished speaking.

Before accepting his new role, Craven previously worked for a theater company, a production company, a multi-media marketing company and a fine arts museum. He holds a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts, all within the fields of cinematic production, communication, business and cross-cultural studies.

He also volunteers for children-focused nonprofit organizations, with the goal of inspiring children to be lifelong learners.

Craven, his wife Brittany and their two children have lived in St. George since 2017.

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