"Nurture, Push and Get Out of the Way": Fostering the Next Generation of Industry Leaders

July 30, 2013

Kile Ozier

Kile Ozier

You know it's coming.  Store stockers load shelves with pencils, notebooks, rulers and glue.  Televisions blare with notices of gigantic sales on extra long twin sheets and other campus necessities.  Back-to-School time approacheth, and in honor of the mix of excitement and dread infused into every college student this time of year, we thought we'd take a look at how the themed entertainment industry is reaching out to students and recent grads, fostering the next generation of dreamers and doers.

To that end, this week, our blogger-in-chief, Clara Rice, intereviews Kile Ozier (you may remember his video contribution from last week's blog).  Kile is not only an industry veteran, but he also happens to be Chair of the Themed Entertainment Association's Next Generation Committee, whose mandate is to introduce students and near-students to the industry, the TEA and the myriad of companies, career paths and resources available to them.  Full-time students and those within three years of graduation are eligible for Next Gen Membership, and the annual fee is only $50.

You can find Clara's complete interview of Kile in InPark Magazine, and you can keep up with the Next Gen Committee's people, projects and plans on Twitter and Facebook.

TEA Next Gen Event at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center.  From left: Shirley Saldamarco (ETC), Christian Lachel (BRC), Clara Rice (JRA), Joshua Jeffery (Warhol Museum), Christine Kerr (BaAM, TEA President) and Dennis Bateman (Carnegie Science Center)


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The Big Question (via The Great Discontent)

July 24, 2013

It's a question we all ask ourselves: are we creatively satisfied?  Is creative satisfaction even attainable, or is it a temporary state until we are challenged once again with a problem that requires our creative energies?

The folks at The Great Discontent, "a journal focusing on creativity, risk and what connects us as artists," posed the question to some of its team.  Here's what they had to say (special thanks to Kile Ozier for passing this on):


Tags: Blog N Learn , Outside the Studio

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Friday Fives: Martha Gutierrez

July 19, 2013

Martha Gutierrez

Martha Gutierrez

Happy Friday, everyone!

This week, we're profiling another rockstar co-op, Martha Gutierrez, who happens to also be our first co-op from Savannah College of Art and Design's School of Entertainment Arts!  Last fall, SCAD launched the first Themed Entertainment Design MFA program in the world, and Martha will receive her degree next spring.  The program trains future themed entertainment professionals in a wide variety of disciplines, from interior design and animation to exhibit and production design.  Faculty are steeped in industry experience and hail from such giants as Walt Disney Imagineering and Universal Parks and Resorts.

But back to Martha...

Best thing about the industry...

We get to work were the world plays!

Best advice anyone ever gave me...

Follow your heart.

How would you describe experiential design to people NOT in the industry?

It's about telling a story that connects with people through a flow of emotions.

The best idea in the history of mankind was...

Reese's peanut butter cups!

What ís a quote that describes you?

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Be sure to check out Martha's LinkedIn and Behance pages.  Have a great weekend!

Tags: JRA Team

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Friday Fives: Patrick Fitzgerald

July 12, 2013

Patrick Fitzgerald

Patrick Fitzgerald

Happy Friday, everyone!

For the next three Fridays, we'll be asking five questions of one of our latest crop of superstar co-ops.  First up - Patrick Fitzgerald, a graphic communication design student at the University of Cincinnati.

Best thing about the industry... The best thing about the industry is the diverse projects. Each project is different and exciting, and I look forward to new projects and the individual challenge each project brings.

What sport do you enjoy watching/playing? My favorite sport to watch is hockey.

I wish I had come up with … Facebook

If I had one extra hour in the day, I would … Paint

My favorite part of the design process is … Ideate. This is my favorite part of the design process because this is where creativity gets to run wild and create ideas geared toward a common goal.

Tune in next week for our next Friday Five, and have a great weekend!

Tags: JRA Team

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Just a Thought: The Value of Art

July 10, 2013

Keith James

Keith James

In today's blog, JRA's CEO Keith James offers his insights on the value of art, and how it can (and should) be incorporated into museum design.


Last week, JRA celebrated the opening of our latest project - the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania.  While some might consider this colorful facility to be a brand attraction, at heart it’s really an art experience, a place where children and their families can spend an entire day exercising their imaginations with a mind-boggling array of crayons, markers, paint and clay.

Image courtesy Crayola Experience

Our involvement with the development of this wonderful project has provided our team with a unique insight on how important art is not only to the Crayola brand and the tens of millions who use the company’s products around the world, but how important art is to each of us on a daily basis.

“Art” can be defined in a variety of different ways and has different meanings and levels of importance for all of us.  For some, it could mean our children’s refrigerator drawings.  For others, it could mean a Rodin sculpture, an interpretive dance performance or a local poetry reading. There is no certainty.

What is certain, however, is that our economic “new normal” has made art education and development easy targets for those charged with balancing school and government budgets.  These “non-essential” programs are often made to prove their “value” in order to retain their funding.  Unfortunately, these battles are lost more than they are won, resulting in a slow deterioration of the public’s access to art and appreciation of its value.

There is hope, however, as those of us who are fortunate enough to plan, design, produce and operate leisure destinations and cultural facilities have the unique opportunity to not only slow this deterioration, but completely reverse it.  How?  By making a conscious effort to integrate and showcase the value of art within visitor experiences.


To find out how we can turn the tide, check out our full Value of Art article in


, and join us next week as we begin our interview series "Picking up STEAM" with STEAM Journal Editor, Sara Kapadia.

Tags: Blog N Learn , business

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Children's Museums: A Little Slice of Home, Part 2 - Environments and Culture

July 03, 2013

Today we continue Colin Cronin's blog on children's museums and how they offer a little slice of home for their guests.


Many children’s museums are designed around a series of heavily themed galleries, with each one filled with a collection of unique interactives and experiences. A museum with this aesthetic can celebrate local geography, ecology, and architecture through the re-creation of nearby environments.

Golisano Children's Museum of Naples has many perfect examples of this, such as The Everglades Gallery, featuring a huge banyan tree, a 13-foot alligator, and hidden wildlife.

The museum also includes a gallery called “At The Beach”, which features many interactives celebrating the beach, ocean life and culture of Florida.

Another very interesting example of this trend can be found at McKenna Children’s Museum in New Braunfels, Texas. The Comal River runs through downtown New Braunfels, and JRA used the river as a design element, which continues through several galleries.

As guests enter, they find themselves traveling through the Comal, with huge schools of fish hanging overhead.

As visitors continue through the museum, they find themselves on the banks of the Comal, which runs right through a thematic campsite:

At both Naples and McKenna, these fantastically rendered environments help celebrate and realize the surrounding landscape in the children’s museum itself. It can also be a way to allow children to take part in activities they might never get a chance to – such as swimming with schools of fish, or exploring the Everglades for hidden animals. Exhibits like these can be exciting and enriching for locals and tourists alike.


Of course, there is more to a community than the buildings, geography, and businesses. What makes a town, city, or neighborhood vibrant and memorable is the people, culture and society that grow around them. Incorporating these more philosophical or ethereal concepts into a museum gallery can be challenging, but it will often result in the richest types of experiences for parents and children alike.

When we are children, the things we share with others in our community are stories, myths, and tales. Even into adulthood, we can find common ground with one another through the works of Dr. Seuss, folktales or even the television shows we watch. Children’s museums can embrace these widespread tales and stories and use them to inspire galleries and experiences.

At Imaginosity, many of the exhibits, and the overall narrative of the museum, were inspired by Irish folktales of elves, fairies, and other myths and legends:

And at the Magic Bean House in Beijing China, there JRA designed several exhibits to reference Chinese folktales and culture, including a water table activity based around the classic tale “The Three Monks”. Children work together (just as the monks did) to collect water and transport it up the mountain to the temple.

Another example of something that connects people together in a community is language. In museums, language can be used in a number of different ways for various goals. Naples, Florida has a large Spanish-speaking population, and Golisano Children's Museum of Naples is appropriately bi-lingual:

Imaginosity is also a great example of this, in that Old Irish is used throughout the museum, including naming one toddler area “Tír na nÓg”, which is not only a mystical land in Irish mythology, but also translates to “Land of the Young”. Pretty apropos for an area reserved for the youngest visitors!

Many places and communities have a certain aesthetic or “look” to them. A neighborhood from San Francisco will look very different from a neighborhood in San Antonio. Naples, Florida is a city that is known for this, and JRA used materials and colors to emulate the pastel, distinctly “Floridian” look of the surrounding community:

The culture and people of places are what we really remember, and the part that sticks with us after we leave. By leveraging the richness of their community, children’s museums can leave visitors with an even greater appreciation of their home.

Filling in the Gaps

Children’s museums often create galleries based on local activities and locations, but it can be equally as important to acknowledge what isn’t there. JRA’s design for the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples included an area called “Four Seasons”, which featured interactive galleries based on the seasons of the year. The client and design team drew inspiration from the fact that local children did not experience true “seasons” in Naples weather. Some of them have never made a snowman!

JRA developed several unique interactives and exhibits to remedy this fact, including raking leaves in the fall:

And experiencing the cold of winter inside a refrigerated igloo:

The goal of any children’s museum is to educate children, and lead them to richer and fuller lives. While it is important to fulfill local education standards, and make sure children learn the necessary math, science, history and art topics, there may be many topics that they just aren’t exposed to in their everyday life. By thinking outside the box, children’s museums can be designed to create unique and “only here” attractions that can’t be found anywhere in their communities.

A Celebration

When children’s museums are designed to celebrate their hometowns and communities, it really hits to the heart of why these cultural assets exist in the first place. Unique amongst museums and similar attractions, children’s museums are often created by the community, for the community. They are gifts to the children who will learn, play, and grow through the interactives and exhibits contained within.

Some of the most exciting times in the design process are when the JRA design team is able to visit the location of a new project and meet the local parents, teachers, leaders and children who have inspired it. It’s fascinating to explore a new community and learn what things, at the core, create the unique "identity of place" – that indefinable sense of community and home.

What things make your hometown a community? What exhibits or galleries might a children’s museum in your neighborhood include? Remember … in children’s museums, the sky is truly the limit. Well not really. You could always go up into space.

Next week, Chief Executive Officer/Owner Keith James offers some thoughts on the Value of Art and its applications in the themed entertainment industry.


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