Find Your Place in Mingei’s Transformation

Mingei commons level

Exactly three years after closing for a transformative construction project, Mingei International Museum will reopen to the public on September 3, 2021. This will kick off a month of celebratory activities and programs that include the second annual San Diego Design Week, the return of the free, hands-on art program Family Sunday to the Museum space, free performances, artist talks and a new walk-up café. Entry into the Museum Labor Day weekend, Friday, September 3 through Monday, September 6, will be free for all as a gift to San Diego. After September 6, the first floor Commons Level will remain free for all, offering an installation of objects from the Museum’s permanent collection, as well as space to gather, a new dining destination and Shop Mingei.

The grand reopening will reveal a new and dynamic Museum with enhancements and improvements to the 1915 House of Charm, including the addition of 10,000 square feet of space for exhibitions and programming, a theater, education center and amenities including a bistro, store and coffee bar. The total finished square footage will be over 50,000. In partnership with Mingei, the nationally recognized firm LUCE et studio envisioned the Museum’s physical transformation focusing on artist collaborations, accessibility, functionality and well-crafted and inspiring design. Behind the scenes, the redesign will support best practices in art handling, registration and scholarly research. A new light-filled education center will provide a hub for students, educators and learners of all ages to engage in hands-on art activities.

When the Museum reopens it will highlight its rich collection of historical and contemporary folk art, craft and design as never before, and the gallery spaces will not be the only place visitors experience “art of the people.” Signature elements of craft and design will be seen throughout the building, including curtains, flooring, lighting, bar tops and more. To further explore the connection between the art of Mingei and its transformative architecture, LUCE et studio and Museum leadership initiated a series of commissions from acclaimed women artists, which are both distinct stand-alone creations and functional elements. The Museum will also begin to reinstall permanent collection icons such as A Palace for Wednesday, Dale Chihuly’s Mingei International Museum Chandelier and the beloved Nikigator.

A public work of art and play, the Nikigator will once again welcome visitors as they enter the Museum from the Plaza de Panama. This beloved mosaic reptile was created by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who spent her final years in La Jolla, making large-scale sculptures covered with mirrors, glass and polished stones. To return to her nest in Balboa Park, the Nikigator needs to be transported from her current location at Liberty Station via flatbed truck, and then lifted by crane onto a new, soft pad. A $500 donation to the Museum’s “Find Your Place” campaign can support this effort and get her ready to welcome visitors for play again! Donors will be recognized on signage inside the arcade in front of the Museum, adjacent to the Plaza de Panama, for at least 12 months.

To learn more about how you can support Mingei’s transformation visit

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Esteban Villanueva