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New Official Brings Extensive Wish List


She packs string cheese and fruit in her purse because she's never sure when she'll have time for lunch.

One month into her job as the new director of education and public programs at Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, Nancy Warzer-Brady finds herself in a whirlwind of meetings with museum heads, school administrators, donors, fund-raisers, docents and anyone else interested in arts and education.

The full scope of her position is still unfolding.

"I'm in the assessment mode," said Warzer-Brady, 44, who is conducting a survey on what activities museum members want, from poetry courses to lectures on human rights.

Her first major project is to tackle the Bowers' new Museum Youth Initiative, an after-school learning program funded by a $300,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

The project, which begins this week, received $100,000 for its first year. The grant will be doled out over four years in smaller increments each year.

Bowers is the only museum in Orange County to receive the grant and building the youth program is just the beginning.

Warzer-Brady is in charge of the museum's lectures, a film series and docent programs.

She replaces Janet Baker, the former director of public programs and curator of Asian art. As did her predecessor, Warzer-Brady will help develop traveling exhibitions, but as an educator, not a curator. Before joining Bowers, Warzer-Brady spent eight years as director of arts, humanities and fund-raising for UC Irvine Extension.

Working with a staff of three, Warzer-Brady will create education guides related to exhibitions and assist in fund-raising and writing grants--skills that caught the attention of those who hired her.

"Her tremendous experience at UC Irvine Extension has given her familiarity with the arts community of Orange County," said Peter C. Keller, president of Bowers.

The goal of the Museum Youth Initiative is to spark interest in the arts. After-school activities are tailored to the state's curriculum for history and social studies, and meet the Santa Ana School District's requirements for elementary and middle-school students.

Fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from Davis Elementary and Willard Intermediate in Santa Ana will participate in the program for three hours, four days a week.

Bowers will administer its program through its Kidseum.

"One of the most positive things about this education position is that we'll have more personal attention through Nancy than we've ever had before," said Genevieve Barrios Southgate, director of children's education for the Kidseum.

Southgate and Warzer-Brady will work to augment programs between the schools, the museum and Kidseum. Kidseum offers lectures and presentations to more than 30,000 students a year.

Warzer-Brady plans to expand the youth role at Bowers through a junior docent program, training youths to guide tours for their peers.

The responsibilities are not new for Warzer-Brady, who developed more than 750 credited and noncredited courses at UCI Extension.

Warzer-Brady's support of the arts began when she was old enough to stay propped up on a piano bench. Living in Long Island, her family frequently went to Lincoln Center to see musicals and ballet. She graduated from the State University of New York with a bachelor's degree in art history with a minor in musicology. She paints and plays the piano and flute.

These days she's also singing--children's songs, that is--for her 11-month-old daughter, Annabelle Autumn Rose Brady. She and her husband, Christopher, live in Newport Beach.

Warzer-Brady has pitched an idea for a multicultural educational institute with endowed faculty that would assist with teacher training and research at Bowers.

Other long-range projects include a film series led by movie industry professionals, art history and studio classes, cultural anthropology and a music series.

"I have an opportunity to use my creativity and imagination to pilot programs that the museum has never had before," Warzer-Brady said.

"We are a resource, and I want to create models that other educational institutions will look to us for. So the biggest challenge is finding the funds for my wish list."

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