Final phase of major transformation at Mingei International Museum

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Final phase of major transformation at Mingei International Museum
The plan will transform the non-functional loading dock into a new multipurpose theater space for lectures, concerts, films, dinners, and other events. The space opens directly to the landscape and to Palm Canyon beyond. Courtesy of Mingei International Museum, artist rendering by LUCE et studio.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- United under the theme Imagine Mingei, local arts and culture supporters, trustees, donors and elected officials gathered at the site of the soon to be transformed Museum to celebrate the progress and future of this treasured institution.

Mingei International Museum officials announced a major project milestone and fundraising success to date for the visionary transformation of its facility on the Plaza de Panama. This marks the start of the final phase of construction for this significant project in the heart of Balboa Park. With over $37 million already raised, the Museum is moving forward with its full transformation plans. Designed by local architecture firm LUCE et studio, Mingei International Museum’s bold physical building renovation will allow the Museum to carry out its mission in meaningful new ways.

The already award-winning project will feature a newly designed space where the community can gather and visitors can find respite, beauty and creative inspiration. This includes a new Plaza level open to the public free of charge, additional entrances on the east and west sides of the Museum, a dedicated education center and a garden courtyard accessible to all Park visitors.

“Today we are here to mark a key milestone in our Museum transformation. Two days ago, our board of trustees unanimously voted to move forward with the final phase of construction in our comprehensive renovation. I am happy to announce we have just signed contracts to complete the project and are thrilled to have achieved over 70% of our $52 million fundraising goal.” - Mingei Executive Director and CEO Rob Sidner

Assembly member Todd Gloria (78th District) was on hand to congratulate the team. “I’m impressed with Mingei International Museum’s vision and courage in embarking on a transformational project that embraces the community and increases access to its collections for everyone. By going big, Mingei reflects the audacity of Balboa Park’s founders in providing enticing public spaces open to all.”

City Council member Chris Ward (District 3) also acknowledged the value of the Museum to the arts, education and the overall community. “Mingei, along with the other cultural institutions here in the Park and around our region, plays a vital role in our community for people of all ages and backgrounds. As a parent, I know the importance of arts education, and how important exposure to the arts is during formative years. In addition to education, our arts institutions give us a sense of civic pride. This district and all of San Diego is eager to welcome Mingei back to Balboa Park.”

Mingei trustee and capital campaign co-chair John Seiber said, “Projects like this can only happen with the investment of the community. Generous philanthropy has been essential to realizing this exciting vision. These donors have invested in Mingei and Balboa Park with an eye to the future.”

He acknowledged the support of key donors to date, including lead gifts from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies and Frances Hamilton White, and additional major gifts from Lucille and Ron Neeley, The Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Foundation, the Elizabeth and Walter Smoyer Family Trust, Price Philanthropies, Joan & Irwin Jacobs, and The Legler Benbough Foundation. Over 300 donors have supported the project already, including the Museum’s entire board of trustees. Seiber announced the kick-off of a $15 million public campaign to complete the project funding.

Mingei International Museum believes that art belongs to everyone—a value that is taken to heart in its renovation plans. The plan expresses a dynamically renewed commitment to the Museum’s vision and the community it serves. Sidner shared highlights of the renovation, including:

• Lively new civic space to gather, with free access for all on the Plaza Level
New additions to the Park landscape, including an inviting courtyard garden next to the Plaza de Panama

• Quiet and spacious upper level galleries devoted to exhibitions, with a library open to visitors

• Restored historic spaces, including upper terraces which will be structurally reinforced and opened to the public for the first time in decades, offering views of the Plaza de Panama, El Prado and the California Tower

• Access to the building’s historic Bell Tower, which will we opened and activated with a new grand staircase

• An education center for K-12 students, including a classroom for students of all ages to engage in hands-on artmaking

• An elegant, multipurpose theater space designed for performances, lectures, concerts and special events

• Enhanced amenities for Park visitors, including a new iteration of the Museum’s beloved store, Shop Mingei; a walk-up coffee bar; and a full-service cafe

• Improved operational elements for shared tenants, including a new freight elevator, HVAC system and revitalized circulation spaces (benefitting The Old Globe and San Diego Art Institute as well as Mingei)

Sidner added, “We hope that Mingei’s transformation will provide inspiration to others and serve as an example of what is possible to do for the Balboa Park that we love.” The Museum expects this final phase of construction to last 12 months and plans to reopen to the public in the first half of 2021.

San Diego architecture firm LUCE et Studio, led by architect Jennifer Luce, has designed a beautifully transformed, award-winning space that responds to new needs, new opportunities and new possibilities, optimizing Museum operations and the visitor experience.

“It’s an important moment to aspire to a big gesture of change. This project with Mingei is a perfect confluence—it’s about the Park, the craft of fine art, and good design. And it’s one of the most authentic and humble institutions in the city that I believe in. It couldn’t be a better fit.” - Jennifer Luce Founder and Principal, LUCE et studio

The renovation project is being carried out by Layton Construction, a nationally-ranked commercial contractor. Construction management is provided by Gardiner & Theobald, a nearly 200-year old London-based firm.

In November 2019, this project received an award in the category of “Unbuilt Design” from the San Diego AIA chapter.

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