A West Seneca woman whose work has focused on serving families and children will help guide the completion of one of the region's most highly-anticipated projects.
Michelle Urbanczyk has been named the new CEO of Explore & More Children's Museum. She will formally take over from previous CEO Douglas Love, who resigned last fall, in February.
Explore & More operates a small children's museum in East Aurora. It is currently constructing a much larger museum at Buffalo's Canalside, which is expected to open in January 2019.
Urbanczyk has held prominent positions with the Buffalo science museum and Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), an organization whose mission is to help families, schools, and communities raise children to become responsible, successful adults. She says working with organizations that serve children is a passion of hers.
"It's just been the path that I seem to keep flowing to and I absolutely love it. I love having families have access to programming in the community. I believe deeply in the equality of education and I'm happy that this will be the mechanism in which to do it, especially right at Canalside," Urbancyzk told WBFO.
The steel frame of the 40,000 square-foot facility is now being erected. Urbanczyk says the building's shell should be completed by the summer and exhibits will be constructed in the fall and early winter.
"Michelle joins us at critical time in our transition to Canalside. She has the experience and skill set that will help to ensure we meet the many challenges ahead and provide our community with a vibrant new attraction that will have a lasting, positive impact on our community’s children and their families,” said Explore & More board president Barry Swartz, in a statement.
Urbanczyk says in her new role, which she calls a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she hopes to honor the parents and educators who started the East Aurora museum many years ago.
"I'm going to continue the work that has been started by very passionate people and open up a really wonderful place that's immersive and interactive and supports the power of play," she said.
Through its continuing "Play It Forward" capital campaign, the museum has raised nearly 70 percent of its fundraising goal.