Pavilion Surpasses 100,000 Museum Visitors and Breaks Annual Attendance Record

November 11, 2019

Sioux Falls, SD For the first time in its history, the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science achieved a significant milestone by breaking an all-time record of 100,000 admissions to the Kirby Science Discovery Center or Visual Arts Center museums. This surpasses the previous record of 96,349 museum visits set in 2000.

“Our staff identified an aggressive goal to break the all-time attendance record for visitors to our museums and worked very hard for several years to achieve that goal,” says Darrin Smith, Washington Pavilion President and CEO. “As we grow, we host more and more events, offer more and more reasons for people to visit the museums, and find more and more opportunities to meet the needs of the community.”

Washington Pavilion staff members credit ongoing capital investments in the facility, improvements in programming, a focus on the customer experience and enhanced marketing efforts as reasons for the increase in attendance.

Extensive renovations at the Kirby Science Discovery Center will be complete next year when the agricultural-themed new area on the third floor opens. Staff members also have placed greater emphasis on ensuring exhibits at the Kirby Science Discovery Center are well-maintained and functional. Since those exhibits are more tactile to engage children in an immersive environment, they need to be more durable, and a full-time employee is now on staff who can repair exhibits quickly.

“We want to make sure we are listening to our customers and learning more about what they want to see or experience,” says Jason Folkerts, Washington Pavilion Director of Museums. “Over the past three years especially we have worked to renovate, reimage and rethink all aspects of our operations, and this attention and work has helped with our attendance growth. We are just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible here and we are very excited for our patrons to see the new exhibits we’ll open in summer 2020.”

The Visual Arts Center includes eight different galleries that host 25 to 30 individual art shows each year. In the past three years, staff members have worked to increase both the quality of exhibitions and the number of exhibitions, including hosting traveling shows you can see only at the Washington Pavilion. 

The newly renamed “Bates Trimble Gallery Featuring South Dakota” displays artwork focused on a South Dakota theme, and the new Young Artists Gallery has been designated to showcase museum-quality art by students. Partnering with SculptureWalk to create a Visitors Center in the Washington Pavilion also has brought many new people through the doors of the Visual Arts Center.

“Support from the community is probably the strongest it has ever been,” says Jane Hathaway, Chief Financial Officer and 21-year employee. “We turn around and put that support back into our facility, programming and exhibits, and then people react even more favorably. I have been able to watch this organization grow from a toddler to a teenager to now a young adult, and it’s been fun to see the community and downtown Sioux Falls grow along with us.”

About the Museums at the Washington Pavilion 

The Visual Arts Center brings exhibitions of leading regional, national and international artists to its eight spacious galleries, including a gallery dedicated to contemporary Northern Plains Tribal Art. The galleries host traveling exhibitions throughout the year and showcase artists of local, regional and international significance. The Visual Arts Center has a permanent collection of more than 1,600 pieces. 

The Kirby Science Discovery Center is home to more than 100 interactive exhibits and daily programs to spark wonder and curiosity. Discover space travel, create a tornado, learn about DNA and climb a rock wall―all in one afternoon! You won’t want to miss “HealthQuest by Sanford,” featuring fun exhibits themed in health and wellness, and “Explore South Dakota” sponsored by Avera, offering a wide array of experiences including Avera Stage Science demonstration and exhibits such as roaring dinosaurs and a rock quarry.

The museums are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sunday noon – 5 p.m. On the first Friday of every month, they are open 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and admission is free to all 5 – 8 p.m. Admission is always free to Washington Pavilion members. For more information, call the Box Office at 605-367-6000 or visit

About the Washington Pavilion 
The Washington Pavilion is the region’s home for the arts, entertainment and science. Located in a beautifully renovated historic building in downtown Sioux Falls, it is one of only a few facilities in the world to bring together under one roof the performing arts, visual arts and interactive science. The vast array of high quality programming and educational activities available through the Husby Performing Arts Center, Kirby Science Discovery Center, Visual Arts Center and the Community Learning Center ensures that people of all ages and walks of life can rely upon the Washington Pavilion to inspire, educate, entertain and enrich. There is, indeed, something for everyone here. For information about our programs, please call (605) 367-6000 or, (toll free) at 1-877-Wash Pav or visit our website at