Connecting access, art, and architecture

Within California’s historic Balboa Park sits Mingei International Museum, an over 45-year-old museum that continues to connect San Diego’s multicultural community and visitors of all ages. The Museum believes people should celebrate human creativity, and that everyone deserves an opportunity to explore and express their own creativity.

Recently, Mingei undertook an extensive renovation to deepen its commitment to community and mission.

“We approached this project as a combination of three essential and interrelated components connected to our mission: Access, Art, and Architecture. We are confident that the new Mingei will be a cultural anchor in Balboa Park and a source of inspiration for the San Diego region and our national and international visitors.”

— Jessica Hanson York, Executive Director and CEO

Increasing Access for Everyone

The renovation culminated in an extraordinary physical transformation of the Museum, showcasing its focus on artist collaborations, accessibility, functionality, and well-crafted and inspiring design.

The enhancements to the 1915 Spanish Colonial-style building, known as the “House of Charm,” included the addition of 10,000 square feet of space for exhibitions and programming, with a total of more than 50,000 finished square footage of improvements. Guided by a clear vision, Mingei committed to making the Museum more visible and welcoming to millions of Balboa Park visitors.

Going Big

A renovation of this scale was no small feat for Mingei, with an annual operating budget of around $4 million. The overall project totaled around $55 million and was made possible through 800 Mingei friends over a 6-year period, which included two gifts from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, a $10 million grant early in the project, and an additional grant as the renovation neared completion. Both gifts included matching funds to incentivize other donors.

Mingei added a theater space, which features a moveable glass wall opening to an outside seating area. Through Mingei's Community Monday Events, local groups can use this space for free, expanding Mingei's service to the community.

The Commons Level is free to the public and includes an art gallery, store, education space, and an indoor/outdoor café.

Long overdue building maintenance was addressed, as was a reduced environmental impact with a LEED Gold target.

“I’m impressed with Mingei International Museum’s vision and courage in embarking on a transformational project that embraces the community and increases access for everyone to the Museum’s collections. By going big, Mingei reflects the audacity of Balboa Park’s founders in providing enticing public spaces open to all.”

— Todd Gloria, San Diego Mayor, 2021

Like the founders of Balboa Park, Margaret Cargill, MACP’s founder, also believed in access to the arts —especially art that fosters human creativity.

Margaret lived in and was part of the San Diego community and embraced the arts, which made this project partnership even more significant. MACP has partnered with Mingei through its Akaloa Program since 1995, when Mingei received the Philanthropies’ very first grant.

Mingei is unique in that the art it features is often usable objects or everyday items that are also beautiful and functional, whether made by unknown craftspeople of ancient times or by contemporary designers. As described in Mingei’s mission statement, this art shares a direct simplicity and reflects joy in making, by hand, useful objects of timeless beauty that satisfy the human spirit.

With the renovation of Mingei complete, the Museum will further the understanding of “art of the people” (mingei) and provide an opportunity for visitors of diverse ages and backgrounds to experience the arts in daily life.

Previous Slide
Next Slide

Photos courtesy of Mingei International Museum by Ron Kerner.