After an extensive national search, Jarrad Bittner — an experienced organizational leader focused on strategic initiatives serving children and families — has been named the new director of the i.d.e.a. Museum, a City of Mesa museum. He began his new position on Aug. 2. Bittner joins a dedicated, talented and experienced team that provides art exhibitions and hands-on activities to support early learning, nurture creative thinking and engage families to build stronger bonds together.
Bittner, who has ties to the Valley, previously led the revitalization of the Building for Kids Children’s Museum in Appleton, WI. During his five-year tenure, he raised more than $4 million to expand and renovate the museum’s facility, exhibits and community initiatives. In addition to building the museum’s capacity for fundraising and community collaborations, he focused on initiatives to make the museum more accessible to underserved populations and expanded programs and educational resources to new parents and families in the community. Under his leadership, membership doubled and the museum grew to serve more than 120,000 visitors annually.
Previously, Bittner worked in positions focused on education and community engagement with The Phoenix Symphony and Lawrence University. Most recently, he served as the continuous improvement engineer and operational excellence specialist for a leading national construction firm, The Boldt Company. Bittner had relished his direct service to the public and determined it was time to return to community-focused work.
”When I walked through the front doors and observed the energy and creativity of both the visitors and staff, it was clear how special the i.d.e.a. Museum is for families in Mesa and across Arizona.” Bittner said. “I look forward to joining and supporting the Museum’s team and working to ensure that all families have the opportunity to experience our incredible arts-focused exhibits and educational programs.”
Cindy Ornstein, director of the Arts and Culture Department for the City of Mesa and director of Mesa Arts Center, said Bittner is poised to help the museum move forward with its plans. “Jarrad is passionate, sharp and authentic, with strong leadership qualities. He knows and understands the needs unique to children’s museums, and we’re looking forward to his vision and energy,” she said.
The i.d.e.a. Museum served approximately 90,000 children and adults annually prior to the pandemic. An atrium renovation is currently in progress with a bigger expansion on the horizon.
Dyan Seaburg, who has been serving as the museum’s interim director since March, will help Bittner transition into his new role over the next few weeks. Seaburg – a leader at the City of Mesa within the Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department for 25 years – will be retiring in September.