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Museums of Art and Photographic Arts To Merge

NONPROFITS: Institutions Uniting to Create a Dynamic Cultural Destination

Two of Balboa Park’s iconic art museums will soon click together as one.

The nearly 100-year-old San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) and the 40-year-old Museum of Photographic Arts/Becky Moores Center for Visual Learning (MOPA) are partnering to become a unified institution that supporters believe will be a boon to the region’s art scene.

The merger between the museums officially takes effect July 1. The Museum of Photographic Arts will become a department within the San Diego Museum of Art and will be known as the Museum of Photographic Arts at the San Diego Museum of Art.

SDMA currently has 7,500 members and welcomes more than 400,000 visitors annually, MOPA has 415 members and averages about 3,000 visitors every month.

The partnership will combine the two organizations’ extensive collections, resources and expertise to provide a more immersive, comprehensive and diverse cultural experience for the San Diego community and beyond, exploring the world of visual art through multiple lenses.

Roxana Velásquez
Executive Director and CEO
San Diego Museum of Art

The merger is a natural fit since both museums share a commitment to promoting cultural understanding, education and diversity, and by joining forces, these goals will be achieved more effectively, said Roxana Velásquez, the Maruja Baldwin executive director and executive director and CEO at the SDMA.

“We will be able to share a greater story told together through photography and in dialogue with our overall collection,” Velásquez said.

The conversation about unifying between SDMA and MOPA began in October 2022 and was made official in May 2023, Velásquez said, unfolding and finalizing “in record time, as it naturally made sense for these two iconic institutions to unify.”

Deborah Klochko, the Lawrence S. Freedman executive director and chief curator at MOPA since 2006, said that “among the many advantages to our merger is our ability to create a better business model. By combining resources, we’re able to reduce departmental redundancies and focus financial resources on what’s most important to our members – the art we exhibit.”

Deborah Klochko
Chief Curator
Museum of Photographic Arts

Klochko noted that “photography is the currency of our time.”

“Every person with a cell phone has become an amateur photographer,” she said. “MOPA gives the public the opportunity to stretch their knowledge of what photography is, both artistically and socially. It enhances their visual literacy and expands their perspective on the world around them.”

Klochko, who will take on the role of Curatorial Advisor during the transition period through December 2023, emphasized the aligned goals of the two institutions and the benefits of joining forces.

“Together, with our similar missions and combined photography collections, there will be so much more for our audiences,” Klochko said. “MOPA’s merger with SDMA is an enormous opportunity for both institutions. It will allow the combination of collections, resources, and expertise for the benefit of the San Diego community and its visitors. Together, we will be an even better museum.”

Founded in 1926, the SDMA, at 1450 El Prado, has a collection spanning more than 5,000 years of art history, including more than 22,000 works of art. Over the past eight years, SDMA has been actively incorporating photography into its collection, curating numerous exhibits.

San Diego Museum of Art

FOUNDED: 1926
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CEO: Roxana Velásquez
HEADQUARTERS: Balboa Park
BUSINESS: Nonprofit museum
REVENUE: $13.9 million
EMPLOYEES: 125 plus 600 volunteers (2021)
WEBSITE: sdmart.org
CONTACT: 619-232-7931

SOCIAL IMPACT: The museum partners with the Monarch School, which serves students impacted by homelessness. It offers curriculum that is relevant, meaningful and diverse, and touches on students’ interests and needs, artistic understandings and processes, and the significance of art in contemporary culture.

NOTABLE: SDMA has South Asian paintings from the collection of Edwin Binney 3rd; Buddhist sculpture from China and Japan and Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, as well as one of the strongest collections of German Expressionism in the U.S.

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