Growing up with a terrible stutter, part of Putter Bert’s childhood was spent inside the four walls of Boston Children’s Hospital’s speech therapy program. As a reward, her mom would take her to Boston Children’s Museum after every session where she could freely explore and learn to play. Soon after college, Putter got a job there. She went on to earn leadership roles at the Children’s Museum of Arkansas, Portsmouth Children’s Museum and Children's Museum of Tacoma. This began her path to becoming CEO and President of KidsQuest Children’s Museum.
The concept of KidsQuest Children’s Museum began in 1997 when a group of volunteers obtained nonprofit status after a survey in Eastside Parents Magazine identified a children’s museum as the “most needed facility or service” on the Eastside. Aligning with Putter’s vision and work, she became the executive director in 1999 and created a plan for a children’s museum in Bellevue. After years of planning and building, KidsQuest Children’s Museum opened in 2005 in Factoria and eventually moved to Downtown Bellevue in 2017. They now serve over 200,000 people per year, with over two million visitors since first opening. Hear Putter’s view on the evolution of children’s museums and her favorite spots around town.
What does KidsQuest Children’s Museum offer to the Downtown Bellevue community?
We’re best described as a hands-on interactive museum for children and their caregivers. We encourage learning through play, emphasizing science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). We offer a variety of unique programs throughout the year to encourage people to come back and see something different. This includes early learning classes, summer camps, workshops, free art and science programs and special events. We have an education and visitor experience team that helps curate new activities to keep visitors coming back.
How have you seen children’s museums change and evolve over time?
Children’s museums are places where children learn through play and exploration in environments designed just for them. Reflecting their diverse communities, children’s museums create playful, interactive learning experiences. In an increasingly complex world, children’s museums provide a place where all kids can learn through play with the caring adults in their lives.
Where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 5-10 years?
We know that more families are moving downtown, and the city has done a great job building accessible parks and playgrounds. I see downtown becoming an increasingly walkable and welcoming city for everyone. As we slowly come out of the pandemic, the way we work, live and play will look different, we need to embrace it and be there for one another. I hope to see joy and vibrancy in the city for children and families, and KidsQuest looks forward to continuing to play a role in that.
What do you love about working downtown?
I love that I have access to a lot of businesses and activities. I also enjoy working in a city with an array of diverse people, economically and culturally.
Do you have a favorite place to shop in Downtown?
Crate & Barrel is my go-to spot. I’m a big cook and a big entertainer so that place has everything I need to be both. I also love glassybaby, they are so addicting. My collection has slowly grown over the years.
Where are your favorite places to dine in Downtown?
Where do you see yourself and the museum in 5-10 years?
We'd like to have a bigger outdoor space with a tinkering school. Our minds are always thinking about how to serve the community better. We wake up every day feeling lucky to do what we do. KidsQuest gets to make magic and remind kids and adults that learning is fun.
Our goal is to not be a museum in the community but the community’s museum. We run a lifelong learning organization, and we are all lifelong learners. Sometimes people have to get out of their own way to remember that they still get to learn. I want to continue spreading that message in the future.
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