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Museum of Art Plans ‘Transformative’ Renovation

CIVIC: Balboa Park Institution Preps for Second Century

A Balboa Park fixture since it opened in 1926, the San Diego Museum of Art is preparing for its first major renovation in more than 50 years with construction scheduled to start on its 100th anniversary in 2026.

Roxana Velasquez
CEO
San Diego Museum of Art

“We are getting ready for this next chapter, this next 100 years,” said Roxana Velasquez, executive director and CEO of the Museum of Art.

“It’s definitely going to be transformative,” Velasquez said.

The museum in mid-March chose the British architectural firm of Foster + Partners as the design architect of the renovation and LPA Design Studios with offices in San Diego as the architect of record, responsible for project management and daily oversight of the renovation.

The work will encompass the 35,000 square-foot west wing of the 115,000-square-foot museum and include construction of a new education center, a new pavilion, and a rooftop space, Velasquez said.

The cost and details of the project have yet to be worked out.

Cultivating Curiosity

Foster + Partners museum projects have included the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum in Spain, Prado Museum in Madrid, Apple Park in Los Angeles, Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and the Great Court at the British Museum.

“Our shared vision is that this project will feature free access to open art spaces for the public and increase educational opportunities for the community,” Velasquez said.  “Foster + Partners’ impressive expertise, combined with their commitment to community engagement will help us create a space that makes art more accessible to everyone and simultaneously is functional in design and fit for the next 100 years.”

In announcing the selection of Foster + Partners, Museum Board of Trustees President Taffin Ann Ray said that “this next chapter will further emphasize the museum’s mission of inspiring, educating, and cultivating curiosity for all.”

Adding Exhibits

Velasquez said that museum attendance and membership has surpassed what it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with about 7,500 members in 2022 and 400,000 visitors in 2022.

By comparison, Velasquez had about 120,000 visitors in 2010 when she came to lead the museum.

“We really have been growing,” Velasquez said.

In the past eight years, she said that the museum has added more than 5,000 works of art to its collection that includes work dating back to 3000 BC to the present.

Building a new education center is a critical part of the renovation.

“It’s kind of one of the big drivers for this project,” Velasquez said, adding that the museum has classes for about 50,000 elementary and high school students annually.

“It really is amazing the programs that our teams execute,” Velasquez said, but the classes are in a basement setting.

“To have the kids underground in San Diego weather, not seeing the sun or the light of the day, it’s kind of challenging,” Velasquez said. “We’re thinking of having open workshops because the weather here allows that maybe 10 months a year.”

Investing in the Future

Along with the physical changes to the museum, Velasquez said that the museum is working to diversify its exhibitions, partly to appeal to younger audiences.

“Also, we do a lot of contemporary art that has brought a much younger crowd as well,” Velasquez said. “We are working toward the younger populations because of course, we need it. We need to invest in that future.”

With the planned renovation, Velasquez said that the Museum of Art will take its place along other San Diego art institutions that have been reinvigorated.

“There are so many great additions here in just the last five years, right? The (San Diego) Symphony, the (Rady) Shell, the Museum of Contemporary Art. You see the renovation of the Mingei Museum here and others,” Velasquez said. “I think the city deserves this type of real iconic places.”

San Diego Museum of Art

Founded: 1926
Headquarters: Balboa Park
CEO: Roxana Velásquez
Business: Museum
Employees:  100
Members:  7,500
Website:  www.sdmart.org
Contact:  619-232-7931
Notable: The museum has a collection of more than  22,000  works, some pieces dating as far back as 3000 BC.

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