Comedy, Discovery and Revelry: A 2015 Preview of JRA's Museum and Attraction Projects

January 07, 2015

The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville is one of several new projects

The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse in Louisville is one of several new projects "on tap" for 2015.

Welcome back to JRA + Blog!

We hope you enjoyed a fun and restful holiday season and rang out the year in style. While we’ll continue to reflect on the attraction designs, trends and milestones of 2014, today we’re offering you a sneak peek at what lies ahead for the new year.

One Flock of Birds Flies East, Another Flock Lands in Russia


As we mentioned in our 2014 Year in Review, the Year of the Horse could have been more aptly described as the “Year of the Bird” - the Angry Bird, that is. “Angry Birds Universe: The Art and Science Behind a Global Phenomenon”, began its journey in Dubai, UAE last year before flying off to Doha, Qatar. This year, the traveling exhibition, a collaboration between Imagine Exhibitions, Rovio and JRA, will be heading to China. Stay tuned for more details on its exact flight path!

Meanwhile, in Russia, the Birds will make a more permanent nest this summer. JRA is working with Rovio and FORTGROUP to develop the new Angry Birds Activity Park St. Petersburg within the highly anticipated Europolis Mall. The attraction will be a first of-its-kind family destination that blends the exciting world of Angry Birds with the rich history and culture of St. Petersburg. Through a combination of scenic environments, theatrical lighting, dynamic sound, media and special effects, guests will become immersed within the mysterious Piggy Island – home to the Angry Birds and their nemeses the bad Piggies.

And the Thea Award Goes To…

This spring will be a season of celebration, as the Grand Hall at St. Louis Union Station receives the Themed Entertainment Association’s Thea Award for Best Live Show – Limited Budget. Considered the Oscars® of the themed entertainment industry, the award will be presented in grand style at the TEA’s Thea Awards Gala at the Disneyland Hotel on March 21. As always, JRA + blog will be front and center, covering all of the weekend’s festivities. 

Worlds of Discovery

Starting this summer, children will be treated to a world of discovery at Beijing’s first permanent children’s museum. Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the CNCC will offer 26,000 square feet of interactive and innovative experiences. The museum’s five exhibit halls and fourteen galleries, themed to the Chinese zodiac, will enable children ages infancy to seven the opportunity to learn problem solving, embrace exploration and challenges, and understand the diversity of their world.

A Project with a Punchline

It will definitely be a laughing matter this summer, when the highly anticipated National Comedy Center breaks ground. The Center, located in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, aims to be a “national attraction based on the art of comedy, the craft and its contributors.” The project received a major boost when the New York State Regional Development Council granted the Center $1.5 million in Empire State Development funds. JRA has provided design consultation for the Center in partnership with interactive media firm, Local Projects.

On the Rocks (in a Good Way)

In 2012, JRA provided design and implementation for the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Bardstown, Kentucky. In 2015, JRA’s Bourbon Trail heads north to Louisville and the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse. The new Stillhouse will offer bourbon enthusiasts the opportunity to tour a small working distillery and bottling line, sample a sample, and purchase Jim Beam merchandise. JRA Is again providing design and implementation for this brand attraction.

Where You Can Find Us

It wouldn’t be the JRA + blog if we didn’t include our annual Conference World Tour! This year, you can find us at the IAAPA Leadership Conference (March 10-12), the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Summit and Thea Awards (March 19-21), the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and Museum Expo (April 26-29), the Association of Children’s Museums Interactivity! Conference (May 13-15), the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo (June 16-19), the IAAPA European Attractions Expo (October 6-8), the TEA’s SATE Conference (Fall 2015), the International Association of Children’s Museums’ Hands On! Conference (October 13-16), Alliance of Science-Technology Centers Conference (October 17-20), MAPIC (November 18-20), and the IAAPA Attractions Expo (November 16-20). But you never know quite where we’ll turn up, so don’t be surprised if you see us at other events, conferences and mixers throughout the year. We look forward to seeing you!

We’re excited to share our tips, tricks and inspirations for engaging and innovative attraction planning, design, and implementation, introduce you to some of our fabulous people and projects, and answer your themed entertainment questions. We’ll begin next week with Shawn McCoy’s annual trends review, and how the lessons learned from recent innovative projects can help lead museums on the path to success.

Best wishes for a successful and fun 2015!


Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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Babies, Birds, Bikes and The Fonz: JRA's 2014 Year in Review

December 21, 2014

Welcome to the 2014 Year in Review.  The "Year of the Horse" was very good for JRA - bringing new projects, new people and lots of adventures.  We couldn't have had enjoyed our successes without our fabulous team, partners, and clients (and blog readers!), so thank you for your support.  Here's a look at some of the year's highlights:

March 2014

Keith James presents “Defining Your Story” (from a wheelchair, no less!) at the IAAPA Leadership Conference in San Francisco California. The presentation offers techniques for creating compelling museum and attraction experiences through storytelling.

Designer Teresa Johns serves as graphic designer and box office manager for a theatrical production of Working, directed by fellow JRA designer, Colin Cronin. Teresa would go on to provide graphic, photography and ticketing support for seven other shows this season.

Senior Project Director Randy Smith participates as a "red" in a High Art "Diner en Couler en Plein Air", a performance art piece on the roof of the Aronoff Performing Arts Center.  The "piece" was performed to be visible from the observation deck of Cincinnati's art deco Carew Tower.

April 2014

The Mind Museum receives the Themed Entertainment Association’s Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement – Museum. This is the first time an Asian science center has been selected.

Keith James is quoted in Delta’s SkyMiles Magazine’s “Member Review” section. He should know about air travel – Keith has logged a lifetime total of over 6.4 million Delta miles!

May 2014

JRA attends the 2014 Association of Children’s Museums’ Interactivity Conference and is a proud sponsor of the conference’s Small Museum Financial Aid Program. JRA launched the program in 2009 to provide five selected individuals with complimentary registration to Interactivity and tickets to all three evening events.

June 2014

The JRA-designed KidsSTOP™ opens at Science Centre Singapore. KidsSTOP is the first children’s science center in Singapore. While designed for children aged 18 months to 8 years, VP of Marketing Shawn McCoy couldn’t help but get it on the fun.

Chloe James Hausfeld pens her first “Conference World Tour Journal” for the 2014 Asian Attractions Expo, offering readers a glimpse of not only the conference but also of Beijing and the Philippines. Hausfeld also shares her Amsterdam stories from September’s European Attractions Expo.

Shawn McCoy presents on the panel “Intellectual Property: 5 Tips for Success” at the Asian Attractions Expo.

Photo courtesy Blooloop.

Sochi Park opens in the Russian seaside town of the same name. JRA provided overall master planning, concept design and schematic design for the 20.3-hectare park.


The Grand Hall at St. Louis' Union Station unveils a new 3D light, video and sound show for its 65-foot ceiling. The experience, dubbed the largest multimedia show in North America, includes a musical soundtrack and narration to slides and videos portraying St. Louis history and culture. JRA provided storyline development and scripting for the experience, which was produced by Technomedia.

July 2014

“Angry Birds Universe: The Art and Science Behind a Global Phenomenon” debuts at Dubai World Trade Centre in the UAE. The STEAM-based, 10,000-square-foot traveling exhibit, a partnership between JRA, Imagine Exhibitions and Rovio, remains in Dubai through the summer before venturing to Doha, Qatar.

August 2014

The newly renovated and expanded South Carolina State Museum opens. JRA provided planning, conceptual design and environmental graphics for the State Museum’s telescope gallery, retail store and common areas.

Project Management Assistant and Russian native Ekaterina Batt is sworn in as a United States citizen. Kate moved to the US as an exchange student in 2005.


September 2014

JRA hosts the Themed Entertainment Association’s first-ever Cincinnati event – OkTEAberfest! Attendees enjoyed panel discussions, a tour of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a visit to the Cincinnati Comic Expo (where this blogger got a hug from The Fonz!) and the nation’s largest Oktoberfest celebration.

Randy Smith continues the red theme for 2014 and joins the Cincy Red Bike Program. He currently ranks #22 in the entire city for number of miles ridden.

October 2014

JRA welcomes its littlest team member – Keith’s grandson (and Chloe’s nephew), August ("Auggie") John McDonald. 8 pounds 5 ounces of non-stop adorable…

Clara Rice completes the Queen Bee Half Marathon, her fourth. She surprises even herself when she can walk through the office under her own power the next day.

The JRA-designed Crayola Experience makes Parents Magazine’s list of “10 Trips to Take Before Your Child Turns 10”.

Just in time for Halloween, designer Colin Cronin performs in an evening of original sketch comedy called “Scary Fun” with his troupe, The Company Productions.

Speaking of Halloween…

November 2014

The IAAPA Expo is a big week for JRA!

  • • Shawn McCoy presents on the Museum Day “Emerging Trends in Museum Design” panel, and Clara Rice presents on the “TEA Presents Future Legends: Transforming Experience” panel.
  • • Chloe James Hausfeld wins a bronze medal at the IAAPA Footprints from the Heart 5K run (her third medal in three years!).
  • • The Grand Hall Experience at St. Louis Union Station receives the IAAPA Brass Ring Award and is named a 2015 Thea Award recipient.
  • • Members of the JRA team participated in a Guinness World Record event at the GM and Owners Breakfast: most people launching handheld model gliders simultaneously.
  • • To document the spirit of the 2014 IAAPA Expo, JRA produces and shares its first ever “IAAPA…in 2 Minutes or Less” video to great social media acclaim.

JRA attends its first-ever MAPIC conference. This retail conference was held in Cannes, France, and Senior Project Director Rob Morgan and Assistant Operations Manager Dana Everhart were on the scene.

December 2014

Dan Schultz is heavily quoted in Rinksider Magazine: “The Voice of the Roller Skating Industry”. He advises rinks on how they can take queues from themed attractions to create immersive environments for their skaters.

JRA hires Rachel Daheim as a full-time member of the design team. Rachel, a recent SCAD graduate, co-oped with JRA this past summer.

JRA participates in the St. John/Mercy Health Circle of Giving program. The program distributes gifts to over 200 families, helping more than a thousand adults and children each year, and JRA has participated for over ten years.

So that's 2014! What will 2015 bring? Find out in our first post of the year on January 7th. In the meantime, from all of us to all of you, best wishes, for a healthy, happy holiday.

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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Conference World Tour 2014: Mapping Out MAPIC with Dana Everhart

December 10, 2014

As we mentioned in a previous post, JRA was pleased to attend its first ever MAPIC Conference.  The show, which welcomed over 8,400 retail developers, designers and creators to Cannes, France, offered three days of product demonstrations, networking events and educational opportunities. Two of those lucky delegates were our own Dana Everhart and Rob Morgan, and Dana was kind (and lucky!) enough to share her impressions of the conference, and of the French Riviera. 


Day One

To kick things off on Monday, we spent time strolling LaCroisette, which is a mile-long promenade that gives incredible views of the Mediterranean and the rolling Estérel hills as well as exploring the nearby town. This also happened to be the walking path to and from the MAPIC convention, so we were able to get the lay of the land and make sure we knew exactly where to go once the doors opened Wednesday morning.


Rue Meynadler is lined with charming 18th-century houses, which have been repurposed as boutiques, selling everything from trendy and (relatively inexpensive) clothing to wine and cheese.

Day Two

After an initial day of sightseeing (and jet lag recovery), it was time for MAPIC!  At 8 a.m., the doors opened for the newcomers welcome meeting and tour.  This meeting explained the floor layout and gave advice on how to best navigate the show floor.

Day Three

The show floor was absolutely packed with people and all the booths were busy. We managed to talk to a few people but concentrated primarily on the seminar sessions given by industry colleagues.

Some of these sessions included: advice to mall owners and retailers about how they could gain a competitive edge by using entertainment / cultural anchors to bring more foot traffic into their stores, the design approach to best integrate entertainment and retail, how retailers and mall owners could learn a lot from the attractions industry about lengthening stay and how to increase spending and lastly, current trending and growth markets like China, Russia and Turkey.

Day Four

On the final day of MAPIC, the tradeshow floor was less crowded, so it was a great time to meet and talk with some of the show exhibitors and admire some of the fabulous retail projects that are in the near future.

Hey, look - it's Rob!

Day Five

The day after MAPIC wrapped, a fifteen-minute boat ride from Cannes landed my husband and I on the island of Sainte-Marguerite, where marked trails took us on a botanical and historical tour of the site.

We explored Fort Royal and the Musée de la Mer, which once held the Man in the Iron Mask captive. The excursion was a nice break after the frenzy of the conference.

Day Six

A short ride through the mountains and we were in Monaco touring sites like the Monte-Carlo Casino and the Place du Palais.

While traveling to Monaco we came across Eze and spent the day in the quaint medieval Mountain-side village with that hosted a variety of of shopping, restaurants, and breath taking views.

MAPIC was overall a great experience, and it certainly proved that retail (and in particular, themed retail, or "retailtainment") is alive and well.  We met some fantastic people, saw some great sights, and learned a lot about the themed retail industry. Looking forward to next year!


Thank you Dana for the update, and thank you readers for following us on our Conference World Tour 2014.  Next year, our journeys will take us to Dubai, Anaheim, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Hong Kong, Liseberg, Montreal, Orlando and back to Cannes, so stay tuned!








Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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World Premiere Movie: The 2014 IAAPA Expo...In Two Minutes or Less!

November 26, 2014

This year's International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo welcomed 30,500 attendees, making it the largest Expo in 17 years and the third largest in IAAPA's history.

To celebrate, we produced "The 2014 IAAPA...Expo in Two Minutes or Less," a raw, light-hearted look at the spirit of the Expo - one of our favorite weeks of the year.  We aspire to create this whimsical video annually, and hope you enjoy this world premiere (including a few cameos)!

From all of us to all celebrating, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. 

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Project Spotlight

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Conference World Tour 2014: Thinking BIG at IAAPA

November 13, 2014

Next week, over 27,000 industry professionals will converge at Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) for the 96th Annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. Over five days, attendees from 40 countries will stroll nine miles of expo floor aisles (540,000 square feet of space), attend 80 educational sessions and 23 exclusive tours, and enjoy networking mixers at the OCCC, Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando. This year’s theme is “Big Starts Here”, an appropriate moniker given the gradual rebound of the industry following the Great Recession and the current trend toward re-investment and re-invigoration in both attractions and cultural facilities.

JRA team members will be sharing big ideas with IAAPA participants throughout the Expo via two separate panel sesssions. The week begins with IAAPA’s annual Museum Day, which offers a day of presentations particularly relevant to museums and science centers, followed by an evening networking reception. For the third year in a row, JRA’s Shawn McCoy will present on the latest visitor experience trends and how the cultural sector can benefit from them. This year, Shawn will explore how today’s museums can better connect with their audience by breaking down barriers. Through a series of fast-paced case studies, Shawn will provide examples of how new exhibits, programs and technologies are being used to blur the lines between curators and the public, are redefining the space in which museums live and are helping foster deeper communication between cultural institutions and underserved audiences.

Shawn McCoy speaking at the 2014 Asian Attractions Show.  Image Courtesy Blooloop.

On Thursday, JRA’s Clara Rice will participate on the panel “TEA Presents Future Legends: Transforming Experience”, alongside Nickelodeon’s John Paul Guerts, Rhetroactive’s Steve Trowbridge, and BRC Imagination Arts’ Christian Lachel. Panelists will explore topics such as wearable technology, 3D printed worlds, and how the very nature of design is changing to meet the desires of a new generation of visitors. Each panelist will have three-and-a-half minutes to speak on each of three topics, and Rice will be exploring the future of interactive media, the rise of the telepresence robot, and the growing demand for ultra-luxe VIP theme park experiences. Through these rapid-fire mini-presentations, audiences will discover how the attractions industry is responding to the challenges and opportunities of the latest technologies and trends.

Clara Rice speaking at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center.

Of course, you can also visit the JRA team at Booth 1354, and, as always, JRA will have seemingly round-the-clock coverage of IAAPA on the JRA+blog, our Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and our Twitter feed. We’ll also have a special surprise for our readers the Tuesday following IAAPA, so be sure to stay tuned, and we’ll see you in Orlando!

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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