BRISTOL - Louise DeMars is retiring as executive director of the New England Carousel Museum after 28 years of dedication growing the museum’s collection, special events and educational programming.
Victoria Biondi, president of the Carousel Museum’s Board of Directors, said DeMars’ retirement is the “end of an era.”
DeMars was on the original Board of Directors formed in 1990 who helped start the Museum as a non-profit, educational organization. DeMars accepted the role of its first Executive Director in 1991.
“With her incredible expertise as a museum professional along with her forward vision she brought the museum to its status today,” said Biondi.
Today, the Carousel Museum houses more than 100 pieces of carousel art in the historic 33,000 square foot factory building at 95 Riverside Ave.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 28 years,” said DeMars. “It’s almost akin to raising children and watching them leave for college and doing well. We created a museum that has a magnificent visual impact on the community, and spectacular educational programs. If we want our grandchildren and great grandchildren to preserve this art form them we have to educate them about it. Our special events are just a kick. Sadly, today, museums can’t make it just on admissions alone. You have to create other ways to bring people in. Every visit to the museum is entertaining but also educational - that’s what it’s all about.”
DeMars said that some of her favorite museum events are their Mardi Gras parties and the ACE Awards, which she created 10 years ago to honor artists in the community. She is also proud to have revived the Crocodile Club, an afternoon of political light-hearted fun.
Biondi said that the museum has received numerous national awards and accolades during DeMars’ tenure. DeMars said that it “didn’t get any better” than when the museum was visited and honored by the National Association of Carousels last Fall.
“It is a bittersweet moment in the history of the museum,” said Biondi. “We’re happy to give Louise a well-deserved break and sad to see her step away from the daily operations. The Museum has been incredibly blessed with the stewardship of Louise Lauretano DeMars as its first Executive Director.”
DeMars said that while she will no longer work seven days a week, she will still be around in the non-voting position of Director Emeritus. She plans to continue to preserve and protect the Bushnell Park Carousel in addition to daily operations and programming at the museum. She will also continue her involvement with several museum events.
“I’m looking forward to sleeping late on Monday mornings and trying some other things in the community,” she said.
DeMars said that she expects the Board of Directors to announce her successor as executive director within two weeks.
“One of my favorite things about working at the Carousel Museum was the relationships that I built over the years working with so many good employees and our wonderful board,” said DeMars. “I also got a big kick out of growing our collection. We received more donations in the past year than in the past five years combined, to the point where we decided to open a new acquisitions gallery to show them off.”
A resident of Bristol for 52 years, DeMars served on the Bristol Mayor’s TEAM from 2004 to 2015 (the committee on Tourism, Entertainment, Arts and Museums). She is a past board member of the Greater Bristol Historical Society and was an advisor to the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
DeMars also created the Bristol Museum Director’s Collaboration in 2006, bringing the Bristol Museum’s together for a monthly meeting, working together to create events and activities for the Bristol community including “Museum Magic,” held on CT Open House Day. In addition to serving as Executive Director of the Carousel Museum, DeMars served on 15 museum committees.
On the regional and state level, DeMars is a commissioner and vice chair of the Western Tourism District and is a past commissioner of The Connecticut Commission on the Arts. She has served on the Bushnell Park Winterfest Committee since 2011, chaired the 100th Anniversary Committee for the Bushnell Park Carousel in 2013 and 2014, and served on the Renovation Committee for The Bushnell Park Carousel in 2014 and 2015.
Under DeMar’s guidance the Museum Restoration Department projects include carousels across New England.
Nationally, DeMars is a member of the American Association of Museums (AAM), the New England Museum Association (NEMA) and the National Association for Museum Exhibition (NAME), starting as a founding member in 1981 and serving as president from 1986 to 1991. She served on the National Board of Directors of the American Association of Museums for 10 years. She is also a member of the National Carousel Association (NCA) and has been a presenter at their national meetings and has been often published in the Carousel News and Trader, the trade bible.
DeMars was one of eight museum professionals in the country selected to become a member of the AAM Museum Assessment Program (MAP III) national development committee based in Washington, DC.
Biondi said DeMars’ accomplishments will live on for many years to come. The Carousel Museum’s Board of Directors will be announcing the date of a retirement party in the near future.
“I want to thank the community for all of their support of the museum over the years,” said DeMars. “A lot of people are proud of what we have achieved and I’m so grateful for the help.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.