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Ambitious group aims to bring children’s museum to Sarasota

With more and more families moving to the area, a group of women and moms aims to fill a gaping hole in the Sarasota-Bradenton market: a lack of a children’s museum.

Lindsay Rothe and Christina “CC” Fredericks are part of a group of women trying to bring a children's museum to Sarasota.
Lindsay Rothe and Christina “CC” Fredericks are part of a group of women trying to bring a children's museum to Sarasota.
Photo by Lori Sax
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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It’s been more than a decade since a museum specifically designed for children has called Sarasota home. The closing of kid-focused science museum GWIZ (Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone) in 2012 left a hole on the local landscape. 

Now a group of ambitious women are working to fill that hole by establishing the Sarasota Children’s Museum.

The goal of the nonprofit is to create a physical space for educational, child-centered experiences that explore STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) concepts and inspire creativity and joy for children and adults. Its board and committee members know of what they speak: They’re parents themselves and working professionals with diverse backgrounds in education and other areas whose families are the target market for a museum dedicated to kids. 

Founder, board chair and mom of four Christina “CC” Fredericks, for example, has spent more than two decades in the local insurance industry but also has a degree in early childhood education. Education chair and mom of seven Kate Harris is a former educator who’s taught middle school and has certification in Montessori education.

Everyone involved in the effort had noticed the lack of a children’s museum in the area and came together to get something started, obtaining 501(c)(3) status in November 2023. “It’s an absolute need in Sarasota,” says Fredericks, 39.

The group is currently conducting a feasibility study to explore potential locations and the costs of making the dream a reality. It’s also fundraising to help support a project that will have a price tag in the millions. 

Options include both a new build and the use of an existing building for the future Sarasota Children’s Museum location. An ideal site would be one that’s close to Interstate 75 or in the heart of downtown Sarasota and has plenty of parking, access to public transportation and space for outdoor activities like climbing features. It’s a long to-do list, especially with the cost of land and construction.

Lindsay Rothe and Christina “CC” Fredericks are part of a group of women trying to bring a children's museum to Sarasota.
Photo by Lori Sax

“I think location is definitely our biggest challenge,” says Fredericks. “You know, what does that space look like and where should it be located? I think that’s going to be a big hurdle. And then funding once that is decided on: Where do we get the funding? But I think the excitement in the community is definitely helpful.”

The organization is working on a “Wander to Wonder” campaign to raise $5,000 by April 1 to purchase a trailer for “museum on wheels” outreach around the community before a permanent museum is established. “We will likely always have a mobile version of the museum, so it’s nice to test pilot that now while we work on the larger project at hand,” says Fredericks. The Barancik Foundation in Sarasota will match what is raised up to the $5,000.

“Museum Without Walls” events have been taking place around the area at sites like The Bay Park and Mothers Helping Mothers, with programs at The Ringling coming this summer. “We really want to serve the community and go into all areas and work with lots of different organizations to bring the museum experience to their population,” says Harris, 43.

Events offer a range of activities for children and their caregivers, providing choices just like they would have in a physical museum space. “If you think about how many times a day a toddler hears no, we really want to provide a yes space,” says Harris. “Yes, touch. Yes, roll around. Yes, run. Yes, experience.”

“We’ve got gross motor, fine motor, art, movement, and music [activities],” she continues. “And they are able to just walk up with their caregiver and pick the thing that calls to them and work with it as long as they would like to. And when the next thing calls to them, they are free to move to the next. We want it to be a bonding experience for children and their caregivers, and for them to have that initial taste of what it will be like when we are in a permanent location.”

The founders also understand parents need a place like the Sarasota Children’s Museum just as much as their kids. “There is not a single caregiver in the city we have mentioned this idea to who hasn’t been like, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be amazing,’” says Harris. “People are really yearning for this kind of experience and the sense of community that it brings. Caregiving can be isolating.”

Sarasota has no shortage of nonprofits, foundations and cultural organizations, and the team working to bring the Sarasota Children’s Museum to life has experienced firsthand the collaborative spirit of the area and how joining forces can make things happen. Ringling College of Art and Design students are working on branding for Sarasota Children’s Museum, and board and committee members recently took part in the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County’s Storybook Street event and attended the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s 2Gen Summit.

“There were so many other nonprofits that we were able to connect with and talk with and hear them on panels about their access in the community and the needs for the community,” says Fredericks. “It’s really nice to have that collaboration,” says Fredericks, “when not all communities have that.”



Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, and Learn more about her at

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