The Cade Museum is celebrating its third anniversary since opening its doors with a 3-day event, May 21-23. The Cade Museum first welcomed visitors into its state-of-the-art building on May 19, 2018, to explore exhibits, meet inventors, and experiment in its labs.
As the anniversary approaches, Cade Museum staff members reminisce about the museum’s early days.
Gwen Morgan, Senior Operations Manager
“I gave my first event rental tour in a hard hat,” says Senior Operations Manager Gwen Morgan. “We had a dirt floor and no windows. There was a stick in the middle of the rotunda that we guarded like it was sacred because that was the point off which all the measurements were based.”
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“The bride-to-be was an architect,” recalls Morgan. “She could see the vision of the building. She signed a contract after that hard hat tour, and hers was the first wedding we ever hosted in the museum.”
Morgan started working at the Cade in January 2017 as a full-time intern for her Event Management Degree at the University of Florida. After graduating in May of that year, Morgan became Office Coordinator and eventually worked her way up to Senior Operations Manager, now managing a team of 18 employees.
“We’ve come a long way since those early days,” laughs Morgan. “If you asked me then what I thought we would be doing now, I couldn’t have imagined all of this! It used to take all we had with our small staff to run just one educational program in the museum. Now we can run eight programs in a week and not even break a sweat. Our team has grown so much that it makes doing these incredible things possible.”
Patty Lipka, Director of Experiential Education
“It was tough starting out,” says Patty Lipka, Director of Experiential Education. Lipka first arrived at the Cade in 2011, long before ground was broken for the new museum. “I could see the big picture, but it was hard for the community to visualize what this could be. It was such a grand idea. That was what lit the fire in me. I am stubborn, so every time someone questioned whether this could work, I would dig my heels in further.”
A Wisconsin native, Lipka moved to Gainesville to work for the Cade Museum after serving as Program Director for Building for Kids, a children’s museum in Appleton. She was brought on to the Cade Museum to launch its community outreach programming. One of her best memories is of a day working with the Alachua County Libraries in 2011.
“I was having a tough time making connections and I was feeling overwhelmed. I had just moved across the country, leaving behind my parents, my husband, and my sons (who were in college) while I found a place to settle in Gainesville. I was so down. I was beginning to question if I had made the right decision.”
Lipka pulled into the parking lot of the Cone Branch Library and saw a line of kids and their adults wrapping around the building. Her first thought was that the library must have been having some other big event, but then the library staff said they were here to see Miss Patty. “The kids were so excited about science time,” reminiscences Lipka.
“After that I drove to the Hawthorne branch library, and the room was packed with children. There were so many kids there that they had to separate them into two sessions. Their faces were lighting up with each new science activity.”
“That was when I knew I was where I was supposed to be,” says Lipka. “That gave me the confidence that I needed to make it work. I still cry every time I think of that day. It was so meaningful.”
“And now, we’re a well-oiled machine. Sometimes it feels too easy,” says Lipka, laughing. “We have a lot of hands and everybody has their specialty to make it all come together into something really special in the end. We are blessed to have come so far!”
Ellie Thom, Director of Product Development
“It was all-hands-on-deck,” Ellie Thom recalls of her first project, developing and installing the museum’s first exhibit, Sweat Solution: Gatorade from Concept to Commercialization and Beyond. “We had an unveiling scheduled for the team who invented Gatorade and members of the Gatorade Trust. There was so much to do, and we only had a staff of six. We were running down to the wire.”
“The day of the unveiling, our entire staff was in the museum running around, arranging bottles of Gatorade and placing panels. We worked with a fabrication firm, ThemeWorks, to design and build the exhibit. They brought their entire team—literally everyone who worked in their office, including their accountants—to help us with the installation. We were all working together, drilling in walls and putting up graphics. It was chaos!”
They finished the installation three hours before the unveiling. “It was a major relief,” says Thom, smiling at the memory. “The event was a huge success. It was so meaningful, especially for the living members of the team that invented Gatorade, to see their work honored and memorialized like that.”
When Thom started at the Cade, there were six full-time staff members total and just one department: general museum operations. Now, Thom oversees a staff of six in the Product Development Department, one of five operational departments in the museum.
Thom’s team is responsible for exhibit development, traveling exhibitions, in-museum educational programs, the Cade Prize, and Radio Cade. Her unique background is a natural fit for the Cade’s vision. Thom has worked as both a sculpture fabricator for fine artists and as a coordinator for large-scale pharmaceutical clinical trials.
Thom graduated from Bennington, a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where she designed her own major, combining course work in biology, microbiology, sculpture, and video installation. “Bennington provided an experimental approach to education,” says Thom, “and without it, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to pursue both fine arts and science in the same breath.”
“Our global community is facing new challenges that we couldn’t have dreamed of,” says Thom. “As technology advances, one of the most critical skills is creative problem solving and developing an inventive mindset.”
The Cade takes a multi-disciplinary and non-linear approach to learning that combines art, creativity, and science. “We empower our guests to be creative, take a leap of faith, and step outside their comfort zone. The future of education and the future of the work force is dynamic, collaborative, and interdisciplinary.”
Philip Waite, Director of Finance
Philip Waite, the Cade Museum’s Director of Finance, first visited the Cade during the 2018 Inventivity Bash, the museum’s first large event. “I was just blown away,” he says. “I was really impressed with the building and the vision for what they wanted to do with it and their leadership. When they offered me the position, I knew it would be something rewarding and fun.”
While Waite has enjoyed the thrill of launching a start-up, he also remembers the uncertainty of the pandemic. The March 2020 closure hit the Cade Museum just before its second anniversary, as the museum and its staff were still getting their bearings. “Everyone pulled together and got laser-focused on being able to continue to deliver our mission. The community was in more need than ever of educational programs.”
“It was a really uncertain time when the lockdown started, but our donors stepped up and donated early, and fortunately, non-profits were included in government assistance packages. That allowed us to get through the closure without a single layoff. While we are still in critical need of donations, we are extremely proud to have been able to keep our staff employed and to have been able to pivot quickly to provide digital resources to schools and homes. We are very grateful to everyone who has supported us.”
Stephanie Bailes, President and Executive Director
“When I came onboard four years ago, we had three full-time staff members, a building that was 45% complete, and a vision,” says Stephanie Bailes, President and Executive Director of the Cade Museum. “Since January 2017, we have grown to a team of 30 full-time and part-time staff members. We’ve hosted over 100,000 visitors and led more than 5,600 students on field trips. It’s just incredible to see.”
“I like to say we are a mission with a museum” says Bailes. “Our museum is a beautiful building where imaginations are sparked and visitors from all backgrounds are encouraged to think big. But we’re so much more than that.”
“Our mission is to transform communities, and we do that by meeting communities where they are at—going to places like the Gainesville Housing Authority, the YMCA, and local schools—and providing dynamic programming that inspires an inventive mindset. We call it inventivity: combining creativity, innovation, and invention.”
Bailes says that when most people hear the word museum, they often think of an institution that collects artifacts and has relatively static exhibits. “The Cade curates experiences,” says Bailes. “We are a place of what might be, preparing our visitors for an innovative future.”
“It’s been thrilling to be a part of something so transformative. We can’t thank our community enough for the support that they’ve shown us and the belief that they’ve had in us. I can’t wait to see where we will be in another three years.”
A Birthday Celebration
The Cade’s Birthday Weekend will be filled with fun celebratory activities. The Museum is open Friday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
All weekend long, the Cade will be hosting these activities:
• Explore our new exhibit, How People Make Things, and our new Theme, Eureka!
• Members can bring one guest at no cost
• The general public receives $3 off admission
• Enter a raffle for a free birthday party (up to 10 kids) and two gift shop baskets
• Outdoor activities on the Cade Museum patio
• Gift Shop Sale – 20% off
On Friday, May 21, it’s National Pizza Day and what’s a birthday party without pizza? Staff will serve pizza on the patio from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. or as long as supplies last.
On Saturday, May 22, guests will receive a free goodie bag upon entry to the museum, and Kona Ice will be selling shaved ice outside from 11:30 a.m. to as late as 5:00 p.m.
And on Sunday, May 23, birthday cake will be served on the patio from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. or as long as supplies last.