Lani Bautista Cabanilla and Edwardo Gillison

Recorded January 23, 2020 Archived January 23, 2020 34:32 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddf000462


Lani Bautista Cabanilla (37) speaks with her museum colleague and friend of the board Ed Gillison (50) about their respective roles at The New Children's Museum, their first experiences visiting the museum, the impact it has for children and adults alike, and their family histories.

Subject Log / Time Code

EG recalls first hearing about the NCM, and bringing his young children. LBC recalls interning at the NCM while in college, and her first impressions of the museum.
LBC and EG recall their first meeting, and they discuss the "family business" atmosphere of the NCM.
LBC recalls coming to the NCM and finding a moment of respite as a single mother, then speaks about later meeting her husband at the NCM. LBC speaks about EG's mentorship and the NCM's Innovator's Lab.
EG speaks about his kids' museum experiences, and his initial reaction of adding Art to STEM, for "STEAM." EG speaks about the role of the museum in military family life.
LBC speaks about her family military history in the Philippines, and they share childhood memories of making art. They discuss the need for adults to have hands-on tinkering and playing exercises, too.
EG speaks about being born in Vietnam, and they discuss how their family's past sacrifices have given them a sense of purpose.
EG speaks about having his inner child come out at the museum, and they reference "Corny," a robot donated to the museum. LBC and EG discuss the upcoming plans for innovation workshops at the museum.
LBC and EG share their gratitude for each other.


  • Lani Bautista Cabanilla
  • Edwardo Gillison

Recording Location

The New Children's Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 Hi, my name is Lani Bautista. Cabanilla. I am 37 today is January 23rd 2020. We are at the new Children's Museum and I'm here with my interview partner at gillison and Filson is my museum colleague and friend of the board of directors.

00:24 Hi, my name is Ed gillison. I am H50 today's date is January 23rd 2020. We are here at the new Children's Museum and I am here with Lonnie my partner in Innovation here at the new children's museum.

00:44 So

00:46 We have a fun list of questions to ask each other Ed. Can I go first?

00:54 When was the first time you heard about the museum?

00:58 My family and I moved out here in 2008 to San Diego from the east coast and a friend of ours Kathleen Doherty worked for the museum back then and she just mentioned, you know, the kids were young. They were tuned for when we moved out here and just Taryn and I were in a new town in a new place and just needed to find a place to take the kids. And so we brought them to the new Children's Museum. And this was the first Museum we joined when we first moved out here, so it was through an introduction through friend, but that was the first time I found the museum and saw the things set.

01:38 Art can do with kids that it was it was nothing like any other Museum that I've ever been to a the kids R first impression. Like what did you leave feeling? Like it was exhausting. I don't tell you it's like my my son and daughter. I mean they've just loved running all over the place. In fact, I might my son still does when he gets here. He's 14 now and he still runs all over the place when he gets here, but it was it was overwhelming. Anyway, it's that you know that we had that we realize I turned we turned to each other my wife and I and just said you have to come back. I mean that's the end. We have these passes. It's like we couldn't experienced enough of it and I'll tell you to this day. I still walk in this Museum and I've probably walked in I don't know if over the past three years just being on the board, but even before that school trips and since 2008 multiple times and I still find things that I haven't seen or appreciate every time I come in here. So it said it's anime.

02:38 Place that full of energy when I first came across the museum

02:44 I wasn't a child and it was funny as I'm born and raised in San Diego and I think downtown was not a safe place in the 80s. And so I think that's the impression my parents always thought of downtown's they would imagine coming here for a fun time, but I came across the museum when I was in college. I was sending the Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute of Design & merchandising here on Downton downtown on Broadway and it was there before it was by Petco Park and I remember walking in curious about it after I saw a flyer about an internship and what is the strange Warehouse place and it was

03:28 Really like Bare Bones, but also really curious and strange but exciting installations. There was a slide that you can roll down at was metal rollers and like hurt my butt. But the thing that I was asked to do after I'd say I totally would love to intern here was like to hang out at the Peyton place to go and teach Families how to make paper at this NASA paper making machine but it lasts a lot a lasting impression on me as like a young adult enough late teen and with a gas super tiring super messy. And why did my parents ever take me or how come I never knew about this and it just left a mark on me when I interned for that semester thinking like this is a gem San Diego. It's a beautiful place.

04:21 But then I went away to college and then I heard that they were designing this new space which is completely different and beautiful. And I guess that's when you came came back around.

04:34 Yeah, and when was the first time that we met do you remember so I don't I don't like you I saw I saw that you want to do like oh my gosh, when was don't all I remember, you know, I'll tell you that. I just remembered how just focused you are and you know, just like you have this old soul about you. It's like, you know, you said your age of the beginning and of course, you said the same thing for me, but I saw how purposefully were how how how much did to this Museum and the kids and bringing that experience right and that you do I come in with my crazy ideas and and just the energy but it's like there's there's ways that that you and the other partners that that we have here that could have, you know are here for the kids and you have that commitment, you know, and it's like everyday, you know, I see that every time I come in the museum the energy of the kids, but also

05:34 The love that you all poor in is what I what I gain energy from it and why I want to make sure that this museum is keeps being successful in and grows and and gives more to the community every day and it's because of what you all do. The question I do have is right eye. What I observed is this is a family right that you know, you all are a workers together, right? But you're also a family and it's a family business because whenever I come to any events, I see your family. I see your friends right same for any of the other folks at work here what makes that for you? What why do you engage your family like that? You know, it's funny when I was a student sitting design and they move back to San Diego. It was art that brought me here. So I was studying art at San Diego State getting another degree, but what

06:29 Made me say it and I think about this year year are the people?

06:35 And I have had a lot of really amazing friendships develop out of this place that are magical and that stems from people that are you know, volunteers retired folks that are volunteering cutting prepping materials for us to your families that live downtown. There's family of

06:55 Triplets that live on Market Street and when I when I first started in the museum when we opened, it hasn't made it had to have been like two or three and they would come like several days a week and that we had a rule that you had to be like 16 to walk around by yourself. But because they came here so often they knew the place and so we let them roam around without you know saying OK, where's your mom or your grandma? And so I think it was the relationships like that. Ultimately made me felt like this is a community, you know, the installations are beautiful and you know, they're engaging and the artist that we could we got to meet her Incredible 2 from around the world, but that day today impact and the relationships that you develop over time. I think our are so special.

07:47 And that's that's what's kept me. And you know, I think the greatest gift out of this place is my family growling when I started emotional.

08:01 I was a single mom.

08:03 And my daughter was four or three and a half and now she's

08:11 She's going to be 16 this year. Holy shit. I know don't like you you see your kids grow up.

08:23 It's just it's incredibly cuz we were you know, we are working during the day visitors on the floor and our Studios, you know that there's is culture among your staff. They're all here for the same reasons and

08:40 You know, he's lasting friendships and I never expected to be a husband to hear that. That's that's when is like the greatest Joys and then our family grew we got married. We had part of our wedding reception here and we had our second daughter Mila who's now 3, and we'll be able to go to camp this year. So that's exciting.

09:04 And that's really special. That's really special. So, you know, you've met Reggie, you know, when you guys come up with great ideas together. And you know, I think he was the one who said, you know, you guys need to have a board buddy program and I feel like that's what we are we're bored buddies and I know this is a term that you know that you talked about, you know, that the three p's but there's that mentorships that I feel with you and everything you're saying about me being dedicated to this place totally seeing you like in my nearly twelve years of being here. I've never met any other board of director human being that dispense. So invested in our mission to the point where I like you come to hang out and then Debaters lab and give us so many amazing project ideas, you know tools and kits to Tinker with you inspire our staff and I think that feeling is mutual and so I totally appreciate that about you because you're not coming to just do it as I could.

10:04 Take me to check off elastic. You passionately care about the work we do and now.

10:10 Yeah, I think with exciting is that the innovators lab program that we get to do together is is really just starting and said 20/20 can bring a lot of really cool projects. You know what I'm going to I'm going to have to fess up and a my wife is going to get a kick out of this but she still brings it up. She probably told you but when I first started volunteering it was stem right our business is very invested middleweights and engineering firm. I've been with them since I was an intern as well. So 24 years later, but since year one, I've been volunteering and instead of getting out into the community to to get kids excited about engineering to to sort of let them see that there is a life and existence engineering field and they can grow in and do anything that they want.

11:04 I'll say that the job right at my internship actually brought a lot of my family in my in my wife to meet with my wife and I met in college but I was injured playing some Merle Sports because I was working at my business lately. I got my arm fixed and you know, that was the first time that she and I met and I know everything that's been happening ever since has been sort of like the opportunities right for my family to move here to San Diego. It was for the job but it was because I had a partner in crime my wife just that you said I'm going we're going to go we're going to leave everything and you know, we're going to start something new with the kids give them an experience. That's for me what this museum is. It's an experience. It's the experience that that if you are willing to sort of embrace it it's a great ride, but I'm going to fess up because stem did not have

12:04 The steam right? It wasn't like that. It was the art wasn't added so later and I'm going to tell you that when I first heard that they put in a and stem I verbally out loud said why why do we need that? That's crazy. I don't understand it. I'm going to tell you that because of working with you and the other members of the team here. I it's just that's the emotional part for me is that I get it. Now. I understand why the art is so important that's sitting there looking at the children and how engage they are that we can reach out to them in ways that you do math and science can't do yet, right, but you know when I stepped back it was the first time I went to an education committee that we were talking about putting together a mission statement. What are the things that came to my mind was, you know, what are the tools that children first are introduced to it's it's

13:04 And it's chalk. It's Clay. It's pencils write paper spray on all of those things. And how do they express themselves through ART and that same thing is how I express myself as a child and I growing later this evening. Maddox as an art that the you know, seeing that it's all around us, right then it's Science and Technology starts from art and I just so that's my confession. I'll say that I didn't get steam until a few years ago. And I really get it. Now, you know, the one thing that I did want to say is that you know,

13:42 What I see you do day-in and day-out is really looking to sort of captivating an end and bottled what we do here right to try and make sure that it stays right that we might keep making it happen for the children and I see it year after year after year since 2008. I've seen my kids, you know who I need them. They're both 14 and 60 now they can still come to this party started your when they were you do 2 and 4 + 3 and now they're able to come back in and my daughter Rebecca volunteers music volunteer of the song over and and I brought Liam and Rebecca to Summer Camps last year just to to sort of had some, you know, Science and Technology introduced but I see that the mission now is to sort of how do we get this out there to get to others in our community rainbows and I'll be honest those like myself and and from what it sounds like you could not have had that experience, maybe all the time. You know, that's that's my

14:42 This is what I see is our purpose together to get this out to some more people to two more kids. So they can experience one of the things that kept me going here was we had an Outreach Lockheed Martin military families and and weave with the innovators lab have any money to help start that in a baby's lab right so that they've been a great thing. But what we also do every year is trying to figure out how do we need to make sure that we get some military families right at and secure their abilities to come here in the museum has been wonderful and doing that and giving them access and you know one story that always gets me is how I hear of families, you know, they they they ship their loved ones out just down the street here at the Navy yard, right and they go out to sea and they're gone for weeks months at a time. But some of those families come here and and some of them sort of have a place to bring the

15:42 Kids so they can sort of be there for each other but also have a solid place for the kids to to come and experience, you know to sort of get past that sadness that that Mom or Dad. I just I love that and that's what it moves and inspires me to figure out. How do we make that a place for everyone?

16:02 You just brought this full circle for me. And I don't know if you know this about me but my father served in the Navy for more than two decades and so he and that's a lot of the reasons for why Filipino immigrants came here was through the military because you know, the country was not the best place to be. So is there hope for a better future was to come take a rest and leave everything we know and their motherland and leave to come to this unknown planned for a better future which I think about now more than adults and I should have as a child, but it's full circle because I feel like

16:40 Having him leave for you know deployment was really tough on my family and a part of what I was raised around was a lot of other family members being there to cook my grandpa like sawing and building like the patio and like music and dancing was a huge thing of in my family my brother play the guitar. I play the piano. I love drawing of you playing with kids in the neighborhood. So in a lot of ways Visual and Performing Art was a huge part of I feel like the therapy and end the it was like a lifestyle but it's looking at it now. It was a way for us as children to be able to like cope with things. Maybe we couldn't really Express and I think of is is Asian people you just don't talk about your feelings right like you're not

17:40 Why are you crying do what you're supposed to do or did you eat yet? You know, I love you. But you know being here in San Diego being a part of a military family, even though I didn't come here as a child. I think maybe that is a big part of why I see the potential of the museum and know that you know, the impact that we can make on the families that are dealing with challenges and in the same things that I dealt with in any other challenges that are arising the you know, nowadays it's cold in this current climate. Like it's art aren't really does bring people together and it's it's our sense of humanity and emotion and it's just a really special place so, you know exists and I think you know, we we owe it to you to other board of directors and organizations that have supported us through the years.

18:37 And I admire you so much for pushing us and always, you know, dropping new ideas and that the trip that you were able to sponsor me on to go to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to check out their make shop was like life-changing for me because it really did Benchmark, you know the work that we could be doing and like the Legacy we could be creating here at the Museum. And so I always think about you know, how it how could I be a Ed to others like whenever I move on from this place or as people move on like how could we continue to inspire people to like to leave that that light and ignite that fire in them? Because I think the impact that we make other than you know being there for families is it's crucial and developing skills that are needed for the future right? Like how

19:37 We help kids develop skills that will help them problem-solve around issues at Aloha rise in like 20 years.

19:45 And I think that's what's really great about the lab is you know meeting different organizations. I'm hearing about how companies have employees that are adults that like don't know how to hammer a third-grade on the computer and they can work a program and they're Geniuses in that realm, but they had to open up at Innovation lab to learn how to like make a surfboard because they're they're losing these bikes they're calling them. I forgot the skills. Skills, whatever skills. They are not soft skills, but I just I just thought wow. Okay. Well that's that's really fast in him that we know we're developing skills here for children, but the same time there there's a gap in adults set up like lost that experience with my tangible objects and just tinkering with things which reminds me about about seeing you not too long ago and I had to take pictures because I was like, this is the end that like that is playing right now we have

20:45 That's crazy robot that was donated to us that you were trying to revive. I'm at how did how did how did you get into like making love as a child for you? Like how how is that you know why I was always curious right? I mean if that's part of what this Museum does for kids to help them explore that Curiosity and Imagination, but I was always curious at how things worked. So I always and you probably hear this from a lot of people who are in a generic. I took things apart. I didn't always put it back together and make it work. So I had some great dance that were very forgiving but I did I took things apart to try and understand how they were, you know, I had an uncle who actually Tankard in electronics as well, you know, something you would have all the latest gadgets and things that you know, I I just saw and then as I was growing up I had a neighbor whose

21:45 Father repaired TVs and I would just go over and see him in his garage. You know, I never once like tried to repair a TV, but it was through that life experience and exposure. That's what made me Fearless instead of figuring it out. It's not that hard. You know, I saw the schematics I can figure it out pretty much I went to technical school for high school. I said, you know, I think you need to get a trade we won't be able to pay for college for you. And that's why I went to a technical school that allowed me to get a job right out of high school that then enabled me to go to school at night. So it sort of built on itself and my wife again, you know, she loves bringing the stories up but it's like I also refuse it like you don't throw things away. So I had to repair our dryer three times before I gave up on it. I repair the washing machine. I mean it's like but she said she said every time I did it's always spare parts.

22:45 Well, that's part of NATO as a kid is always Fair Park and it's like it still works, you know, what sort of thinking and growing and it's been that way going to school and wanting to be an engineer. I've always wanted to be an electrical engineer and that's that's sort of what I I looked at and you hit on something that I want to also say is that I came to this country when I was a year-and-a-half-old and I guess the funny thing for folks is that they wouldn't see it in me to think that I'm Vietnamese that I was born in Vietnam.

23:24 Cuz I don't my name is Eduardo right now and I think it was people write the book write the cover but it's like my mother sent me here because during the height of the war inside cuz she wanted to make sure I was safe. This is a young mother and my father brought me over to live with the family, but it's like it was her courage and her commitment to sort of keep me safe up her ability to know what to do to keep me safe in that country in Vietnam at the time right? It's like Saigon was falling it's like

24:00 Set she sent me here. I had to write to have a life to sort of be purposeful. That's what I've always been with me this that my my existence weather through the military that that protected my family, you know, the people that served in a long side might have my dad. My dad was building military bases and intuitive, you know, trying to keep people safe right all around the world. It's like all of that had purpose and for her to send me here meant that I had to have that but I had to be a leader to give back everything I do is sort of to the honor all those people that I gave so much to give to my family to me to do so to start my life and my aunts my great aunt's like I told you I mean there they still live to this day in my at my daughter's name get my wife's family. I mean they just the family is so important. That's why when I eat when I get into our conversation family to me is important and you all

25:00 Are part of that family from the extended family that is you know, what is braced us here in San Diego that has shown us away. And let's has everyday taught me to to find another way of giving another way of trying to ignite that spark main all of us. I come in this Museum and I am just just energized and it could be the worst day the worst day ever and I got come in here and I have a smile because how can you not smile when you see and hear the kids whether they're crying or they're laughing their if they're experiencing something that they can never see anywhere else. That's what you all bring every single day and everything you were saying about family and then everybody that you know provided for us whenever I'm having a really bad day or or feeling like I'm stressed out and my God, there's too much going on and I'm overwhelmed with life.

25:58 Suck it up Lonnie like you're at your grandparents did not risk everything for you for you to be just giving up and thinking you can just change your mind or or or stop doing that like suck it up do it. You know, they didn't they didn't give everything up for you to just you know decide you're not going to move forward. So I thought that's like my sense of encouragement, you know, and

26:23 At the story that that really hits home is is the fact that like how I'm even hear my grandfather when they were in the Philippines. He served as a Guerilla Soldier and fought against the Japanese the story that I told at his funeral was that I am alive today because of rice.

26:46 He and his friend were I think they were being attacked by the Japanese and it and they were having all the family is like hide in the church in the Philippines and in the province and is it his buddy said, you know, why don't you go run and save the rice because that's our only food. Can you like go run and go get it?

27:05 And my grandfather said no you go get it.

27:08 So his friend goes and runs and then his friend got shot.

27:14 And so my grandfather went to go run and save the rice for everybody and now he ended up getting injured. I think he had like shrapnel in his face, but those stories in the fact that like, you know,

27:29 It's It's Kind of a Funny Story the same time but the fact that he was there, you know, he was risking his life to protect his family and then you know my my grandmother at the same time. She was like praying in the church and that's like how I'm here today if the crazy history but you know, it's it's a sense of knowing that there were a lot of sacrifices made and despite the hardship and all the struggle that everyone goes through, you know, our our choices have to be

28:03 Appreciated through all of those hardships. I just I just feel like I have to keep reminding myself like the problem. Is that idea where this? Yes, they're hard but they can't be any near you know similar to like how it was, you know not having FaceTime to see if a son like, you know, like yeah. So yeah, it's it's a crazy. It's a crazy story that you know add that makes me think about you know, that's probably why you and I get along so well is that we have these like unspoken and now spoken similarities, you know, and and I don't know if you know this with my older brother is an engineer. Yeah. Yeah play the music.

28:54 Love to but like I don't know if you did this, but I remember when he would get so upset. I like not being able to fix a device. You would go and smash it is you ever do that. As I was that usually when I give up at that point, you know on the third fix so that that washing machine or the dryer that I told you about a day to get destroyed in my garage afterwards. They do I have to go out and buy a new one. I texted my wife.

29:30 The the art side of it if you all here at the Museum teach me so much, you know, you sort of allow me to express myself, you know, as an engineer though. We don't take a lot of classes like art classes mathematics physics and inspired so much that you know, you will just allow that inner child to come back out and and reminds me that there were times in my life that I did do are even though mine was more of a scripted and calculated type in a perspective art and I ought to show you some of that later but it was rulers and pencils and end in o. It allowed me to express myself and here trying to fix the robots are trying to bring bring it back to life. That was something you know, that that we did that I did just because I like the challenge.

30:30 I knew could inspire people to to sort of for the gala, you know, what sort of see something that someone donated. So, you know that robot to me sort of incapsulate some of the things that I like doing. So to getting back to the community that wheel that was donated, you know, a couple that he and his wife would take it to the hospitals and Entertain You Know sick children with that robot and I I just want better place than my knee according to the robot Art Museum here to have that robot working again. Yeah sort of have that life that they gave it to bring those Spirits in that that that energy that came with it back to life again. And you know, we have her it's almost there and I think of my next task is to The Habit walk through the museum by itself you reminding me that in the coming weeks. We're launching a new workshop experience that's called the 6 it works.

31:30 It was all about mending and repairing things. So it's an away a cool idea to teach kids to learn new skills, like sewing a broken saying learning how to put a button on something, you know, what using a screwdriver to take things apart and put back together and make new toys out of broken toys that that corny could be like that we can put him down there or you could just be an ongoing project but it'll it'll he can he can be like our our mascot in a way for that whole program is a maybe I'll set up and come in on my day off Friday to do a workshop with the kids that are in the old the way that it was created by its maker write a great story. I will leave the the piece where I'm going to create a way that it becomes eponymous.

32:30 That that it becomes, you know working at walking on its own and and that's just using some high schoolers right through the robotics programs at the high school and let kids see that we can take this was made. I don't know how many years ago and bring it up-to-date and let it let it live again fantastic. But you know what? I just want to say that thank you, you know every day every day that I'm here and everyday experience. So what but you and and the other team members here do for this Museum and inspires me. I am blessed to be able to sit and and help on the board try to experience the leadership and the people on the board that I normally would not have gotten experience too experienced in home. And so that's what I try to do is everyday

33:29 Find a way to sort of give back to the community find a way to get to to sort of help you all and just threw this conversation. You've you've given me something that you know, the unspoken word is now spoken I documented. Yeah, you know, it really is inspiring how you tie your life your family and and everything to to give to this community and it's through arts. And and yes, I believe in Steam I believe in arts the art piece and it's really is growing more and more every year that I've been attached to this Museum and working with you all. Thank you. Totally. Appreciate you too. I don't know what I'm going to do if you ever leave you may never have to go away but I am so grateful for the inspiration even still in all of us and for being a part of the family.

34:21 Thank you so much.