The Mingei International Museum throws open the doors to the definition of art. Mingei means art of the people, and this museum is a celebration of human creativity. The museum’s philosophy is that there is a natural fusion between everyday useful items and art, and that anyone can create it. The museum’s 26,000 pieces of folkart, crafts, and designs are a testament to their dedication to this philosophy. Their collections represent more than 141 countries.
Mingei International Museum was the brainchild of San Diego State University ceramics and design professor, Martha Longenecker. She learned the philosophy of mingei while studying Japanese pottery-making in Japan, which made such an impact on her as an artist and a human being that she wanted to share the vision with others. Mingei International Museum opened its doors in 1978, presenting to the public the arts of daily use from past and present and across diverse cultures. The museum is located in the beautiful Mission Revival-style House of Charm on the Plaza de Panama in historic Balboa Park.
When guests enter the museum, they are greeted by a grand staircase crowned by a magnificent glass chandelier by famed American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, whose work has appeared around the world from The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The open space design concept of the museum allows visitors to wander where their whims lead them rather than following a particular tour path. Exhibitions are presented in both English and Spanish.
There are six galleries on two floors that host the permanent collections as well as temporary exhibitions. Docents are available to lead tours and answer questions for those who prefer to dig deeper into the backgrounds and stories of the exhibits. The museum has a liberal photography policy; visitors are encouraged to take photos without flash throughout the museum and share them on social media. Visitors can also sit and sketch pieces in the museum that resonate with them. Experiencing, sharing, and creating art is the heartbeat of the Mingei International Museum.