Rod Sidner speaks during Mingei design unveiling
Mingei Executive Director Rod Sidner gestures during the design unveiling inside the construction area. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Leaders of the Mingei International Museum announced Wednesday the beginning of a final phase of renovation and unveiled a unique “public living room” design for the folk art museum.

The popular institution in Balboa Park, which closed for renovation in September 2018, has raised $37 million so far and is seeking contributions totaling an additional $15 million to reopen in the first quarter of 2021.

“Today we are here to mark a key milestone in our museum transformation,” said executive Director Rob Sidner, speaking amid the interior construction activity. “We have just signed contracts to complete the project.”

He said the museum’s mission has always been to “celebrate art of the people,” and its transformation by the San Diego architectural firm LUCE et studio will result in “an even more welcoming place.”

Renovation of the 1915 House of Charm where the museum is located features a plaza level that will be open to the public free of charge, spacious upper-level museum galleries, access to the historic bell tower, a large theater space, a museum store, and a full-service cafe.

“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,” Sidner said.

State Assemblymember Todd Gloria, who was joined by City Councilmember Chris Ward at the unveiling, praised the museum as a “gift to the city” and expressed hope that the additional funds would be quickly raised.

“Our hope is in the public phase, more people will hear about this vision,” said Gloria.

During the renovation, the museum shop is open in Liberty Station, and museum staff are hosting temporary exhibitions. The beloved sculpture “Nikigator,” by the late French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, has also been temporarily moved to Liberty Station.

Plaza-level public space
Architect’s rendering of the plaza-level public space at the Mingei. Courtesy of the museum

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.