Calling it Balboa Park’s “Living Room,” officials reopened Mingei International Museum in an open and welcoming fashion Friday at the historic building closed since 2018.

“Nearly seven years ago, we collectively dreamed of what could be,” said director and CEO Rob Sidner at the morning opening of the venue specializing in folk art.

“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,” Sidner said of the lengthy renovation.

The reopened museum includes exhibitions and new commissioned artworks, including “Global Spirit – Folk Art from the Ted Cohen Collection” and “Humble Spirit – Priceless Art,” both drawn from the museum’s collection, gathered around the world.

Admission is free the opening weekend, through Labor Day, and patrons who tour the museum, in the park’s 1915 Spanish Colonial building — the “House of Charm” — will see:

  • An additional 10,000 square feet of exhibition and programming space.
  • A new theater, education center, bistro, store and coffee bar.
  • Niki de Saint Phalle’s mosaic sculpture “Nikigator,” which again will welcome park visitors.
  • And site-specific commissions — by Petra Blaisse, Claudy Jongstra, Christina Kim and Jennifer Luce in collaboration with A. Zahner/Zahner.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria pointed to the renovation as one in a series of improvements to Balboa Park: new international cottages, reclamation of the Palisades corner of the park, a new façade at the Automotive Museum, façade improvements in the Municipal Gym.

Gloria announced upcoming additions and improvements: the Comic-Con Museum, full restoration of the botanical building and major restoration to Casa del Prado.

“For a long time, the park has not been what we want it to be,” Gloria said. “We call it the city’s crown jewel. We need to polish it a little bit.

Labeling the museum renovation “exceptional” but a “heavy lift,” Gloria called the museum a “preview of what’s not just going to happen in the park, but what we want to do citywide.” 

“Family Sunday,” Sept. 5, will be an event in the new Education Center, with creative and guest artist Jessica Findley helping make a giant outdoor mobile.

Friday’s reopening kicked off a monthlong celebration to include the second annual San Diego Design Week, hands-on art activities, performances in the galleries and theater, and building tours and artist lectures.

With a gallery, store, restaurant and center for learning, the free plaza level features multiple public entries on east and west. The second level is devoted to exhibitions and research, with its main galleries and art and media library.

After the weekend, admission to the second-level galleries will be $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and members of the military and free for children under age 18.

Dedicated to “art of the people” (mingei) from all eras and cultures of the world, Mingei International Museum shares arts of daily life through exhibitions of historical and contemporary folk art, craft and design.

Meanwhile, Mingei officials continue to pursue a fundraising campaign to cover the $55 million cost of the transformation. They have raised nearly $47 million to date.

Potter and professor Martha Longenecker established the museum in 1978 to honor anonymous crafts people from ancient times to the present.

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