Santa Monica Place’s newest tenant will open this fall as The Cayton Children’s Museum, in honor of a Los Angeles philanthropist who gave a substantial donation to build the new space. The non-profit that runs the museum along with a youth development program, ShareWell, has declined to disclose the amount but describes the gift from home audio moguls Barry and Andrea Cayton as “generous.”

Construction for the 21,000 square foot museum will begin this spring on the third floor of the mall. When it’s completed, ShareWell hopes to draw 300,000 people a year with exhibits and inexpensive programming for families with young children.

Currently known as The Zimmer, the museum has humble beginnings, starting with just 600 square feet in 1991 at the Westside Jewish Community Center before moving to Museum Row in Los Angeles. It’s the only museum in the area built specifically for children in elementary school and younger.

“Museum is an interesting word,” said founder Esther Netter in an interview with the Daily Press. “Some people think of museums as a place where things are hung on a wall. We think of museums as a space that engages you on walls, on floors, on ceilings. Children’s museums are where kids lead the activity and the adults have the joy of going along for the ride.

The new location will have more space, more classes, extended hours, and five exhibition areas, including a ‘baby art crawl’ where the pre-walking crowd can become artists with vegan paint (and soap and water to wash off later). The room will be made to be easily hosed off and readied for the next day’s aspiring Jackson Pollocks.

“They turn themselves into art masterpieces,” Netter said.   “This is the kind of thing you want to do in our museum and not at home.”

The museum will anchor the mall when it opens, along with Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and the Arclight. Netter says she sees the mall at the southern end of the Promenade as Santa Monica’s urban center. She says the nearby light rail stop, parking garages, and wide sidewalks make it an ideal destination for families with small children.

“This space hits every mark on accessibility and visibility for us,” Netter said. Netter’s non-profit ShareWell also has a youth development initiative that teaches art enrichment, leadership development, and social justice programs to underserved middle and high school youth.

Barry Cayton is the founder and president of Audio Command Systems, a residential audio, home theater, lighting, and automation company. His wife, Andrea, is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and real estate tycoon, Jona Goldrich. The Cayton family has also donated to children’s hospitals and associations, community programs, medical research foundations, universities, and museums.

“We are honored to support ShareWell and its endeavors in youth enrichment and leadership,” the family said in a statement. “As parents ourselves, we place tremendous importance on the values that ShareWell is built on: kindness, responsibility, social justice, and inclusivity. We are proud to reinforce these fundamental principles and are eager to see the continued growth and achievements that they yield.”

The Caytons live in Los Angeles with their three children.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press