First Person

Kids' place

Former Opera Boston director Carole Charnow, 55, has big ambitions for her new role as president and CEO of the Boston Children’s Museum.

Carole Charnow (Globe staff / Jonathan Wiggs )
By – James Sullivan
December 12, 2010

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How does one go from opera to 5-year-olds? I got my undergraduate degree at Emerson in drama education. I spent two years teaching in Newton, and then I got bitten by the acting bug. I went to London to do a Shakespearean acting course. And I started crafting a career as a performer-educator-arts administrator.

> Had you been to the Children’s Museum with your kids? My first professional job was at the Children’s Museum – while I was at Emerson, I wrote a play for kids and directed it here. When we got back from London, my youngest was a baby and my oldest was 7. We came here quite a lot.

> When the headhunter called about this job, you thought they had the wrong number. I was stunned. I said no. I was happy with my job. My husband said, “You should at least find out more.” So I called back. I walked over the Congress Street Bridge and I thought, “Wow.” There were these beautiful willow trees and this huge glass-enclosed front and the Harborwalk. It was spring, and people were having lunch. Immediately I saw concerts and performances in front of the building. I don’t know what came over me.

> With theatrical productions, you’re always doing something new. What’s it like overseeing an environment that’s more permanent? When you work in production, you’re always working toward an opening night. The more I got to know the museum, I realized that you’re opening a production every single day. Every exhibit is like its own theatrical environment. You can go from a traditional Japanese tea ceremony to a ballet class to a very serious conversation about the development of children’s brains.

> The museum’s centennial is coming up in 2013. We’re going to have a birthday party like the region has never seen. The whole waterfront is now in an activation plan. The city’s going to be pretty amazed by what we’re planning.

– James Sullivan

  • December 12, 2010 cover
  • Dec. 12 cover