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Arts council, children’s museum receive $92,000 from state

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POTSDAM — Two Potsdam groups trying to built an art and science education partnership in the region announced on Wednesday that they received state funding.

The Regional Arts and Interactive Learning (RAIL) program will receive $92,000 for their efforts.

RAIL is a partnership between the St. Lawrence County Arts Council and the North Country Children’s Museum, which both operate out of Old Snell Hall in downtown Potsdam.

“We hope to be kind of a revived town square for the north country,” said museum director Sharon Vegh Williams.

Most of the state money will be used to cover operating expenses for the year ahead. Some will be put towards creating the museum’s first exhibit, “Innovation Station,” which will focus on teaching science and technology, and some will help create a distance learning initiative for the arts council.

“We are so thrilled,” said Ms. Vegh Williams said.

The museum already has raised about $200,000 from individual donors and small foundations, but Ms. Vegh Williams sees the state grant as a statement of belief in RAIL’s mission.

“This is our first really big endorsement on a government level,” she said.

The museum plans to open in Fall 2015. There are eventually plans for 10 permanent exhibits, but Ms. Vegh Williams said only two or three will be ready in time for the opening.

“Innovation Station” is one of them, with help from the state funds and curriculum designed in partnership with Clarkson University’s School of Engineering.

“In the next few weeks we’re sitting down with some of the engineers.” Ms. Vegh Williams said.

The other exhibit slated for the opening is Kid Stage, designed in collaboration with SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

According to Ms. Vegh Williams, the two exhibits will launch at the same time to show the public that the museum is about more than just science.

“A lot of folks see us as a science museum, but we’re really much more than that, and we really want to put arts and culture on the forefront,” she said.

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