Spring 2024 | Mingei International Museum

A Word From Jess

Here at Mingei we center and celebrate human creativity, honoring the imagination that leads to artistic expression. Yet creativity is not always a solitary pursuit. It is often sparked along with collaborators, audiences, or the work of other artists. As I read through this issue of Communique, the word “collective” came to the foreground, and I see it represented in our exhibitions and community programming.

The House of Pacific Relations (HPR) is a collective of international houses, each of which welcomes visitors inside to learn more about the cultural background and traditions of its home country. Step into one of these charming structures in Balboa Park to sample the cuisine of Colombia, see the traditional dance of Norway, or learn the techniques of Filipino crafts. As a whole, these 31 houses present the diversity of our world, as well as the commonalities between countries and cultures. The new exhibition Cups to Connections: Global Gestures of Hospitality demonstrates how the collective can come together to tell a cohesive story — one about ritual and belonging.

While all of the eggs in our new Pysanky installation were painted by one artist — the talented Natalie Gebet — each single pysanka contributes to a larger story of Ukrainian national pride and celebration. And the idea of a collective takes on a whole new meaning when you read about the many staff skills and contributions required to design and illustrate the display case for this special installation!

Community programming, in particular, thrives on collective synergy — and San Diego Design Week is a perfect example. This event is powered by scores of design champions from across the region, resulting in a rich and varied program lineup that explores everything from graphics to sustainability, and food to craft practices. All together the programs offer a platform for robust discussion and exchange.

At Mingei we value shared experience, and we see how collaboration can enrich the creative process. As the Museum continues to navigate the intersection of art and community engagement, we’ll always remain open to the possibilities of our collective imagination.

Happy Spring!

Jessica Hanson York
Executive Director & CEO

Spotlight on the Collection

The Nakashima Legacy at Mingei

Nakashima furniture is found in every gallery and public meeting space at Mingei International Museum. Graceful, distinctive benches provide seating on the Commons and in exhibition galleries; a stunning table is the focal point of the Museum’s library; a music stand is used in the theater; a 22-foot table with 20 chairs in the Founders Gallery provides a gathering spot for staff and visitors alike. Other Nakashima works in Mingei’s collection include a chest, a rocking chair, and an end table, among other things. Handmade of wood and stunning in form, Nakashima furniture epitomizes the spirit of Mingei, which celebrates craft, design, and objects of use.

At Mingei, the name Nakashima refers to two people, George Nakashima (1905 - 1990) and his daughter Mira, who lives and works in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Both are renowned designers and furniture makers. George, whose parents emigrated from Japan, grew up in Seattle, first studying forestry and then switching to architecture at the University of Washington. He continued his post-graduate studies at Harvard and MIT, but also traveled the world, studying architecture, design, furniture, and craft in France, North Africa, Japan, and India. When he was sent to an internment camp in Idaho during the Second World War, he met a Japanese master carpenter who taught him woodworking skills, changing the course of his life. Upon his release from the camp in 1943, he and his family settled on a farm in New Hope, where he established a furniture-making studio. The Soul of a Tree, a book written by George in 1981, chronicles his journey, his spiritual outlook, his reverence for nature, and his philosophy of furniture-making.

Mira Nakashima grew up highly aware of the immense influence of her father’s studio and began studying furniture-making with him in 1970. She pursued her own studies of art and design, receiving a B.A. from Harvard and a graduate degree from Waseda University in Tokyo. She took over the studio upon George’s death in 1990 and produced her own original designs in addition to continuing production of her father’s designs. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and collections.

Mira will participate in a public program at the Museum on Sunday, May 5t at 1:30, following a 10:30 a.m. screening of the film George Nakashima, Woodworker. She will be in conversation with Adam Manley, Associate Professor of Furniture Design and Woodworking at San Diego State University, and Dr. Emily Hanna, Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at Mingei International Museum. She will also join us for an exclusive book signing to unveil her highly anticipated Process Book, offering an intimate glimpse into her creative journey and the intricate techniques behind her iconic woodworking designs. See the information below for this related programming.

Exhibition Highlight

Cups to Connections: Global Gestures of Hospitality

Cups to Connections: Global Gestures of Hospitality arose from our desire to have a show complimentary to Shirin Towfiq: Threaded Journeys.

One of Shirin’s works, Looking For A Sign, is made with tea bags that are stitched together with gold thread. Originating from Shirin's habit of drinking a special blend of tea with cardamom, this daily tradition is a connection to her Persian heritage. The sense of belonging that is created through these rituals leads to moments of hospitality, which signify welcome, respite, and connectivity.

We wanted to explore what hospitality and sharing a drink looks like in different cultures – not just the gestures themselves, but the objects that facilitate this sharing. These are objects that are characterized by a refined craftsmanship that tells us about visual and cultural traditions from across the globe. Thus Cups to Connections was born.

The ultimate inspiration came from Director of Advancement Caroline Nordquist when she suggested we collaborate with the House of Pacific Relations (HPR) cottages located here in Balboa Park. This was a perfect fit since the International Houses' foundation is hospitality, and they often offer refreshments during their open hours on the weekend. HPR’s mission is to bring together various cultural groups to foster and cultivate a spirit of understanding, tolerance, and goodwill – making working together even more meaningful.

We invited each of the cottages to participate in Cups to Connections. This was followed by months of visits and conversations about hospitality and drink objects. One response we received again and again from each international house is the warmth, generosity, and pride they feel for and in their culture's hospitality. It truly feels like there is a global conversation in gestures of hospitality. While it can look different worldwide, the moments of individual connections made by sharing a drink are incredibly genuine and meaningful.

Now we are proudly sharing this collaboration with our visitors through objects, conversations, and stories from the cottages in the park. We have included different phrases, histories, traditions, materials, and even some takeaway recipes to try at home. Moreover, we encourage all our visitors to experience this hospitality in real-time by visiting the International Houses on the weekend.

Exhibition Highlight


Pysanky comes from the Ukrainian word pysaty, meaning to write, and that is exactly how one describes the creation of a Ukrainian easter egg. Artists use wax to write symbols and patterns on eggshells, which are subsequently dipped in a color bath. Then, a new layer of wax is added to preserve the color underneath and the egg is dipped in the next color – and so on. A pysanka (singular for pysanky) takes careful planning as it is covered with meaningful messages where each symbol, motif, and color represents a treasured idea and value.

Pysanky creation dates back centuries with origins in pagan rituals marking springtime and in gifting traditions. Nowadays they serve as a symbol of the Ukrainian Easter Holiday, secular celebrations of spring, rejuvenation, and human connectedness. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, these eggs have been celebrated as symbols of national pride, perseverance, and resilience.

Mingei is thrilled to work with interns across all our departments, providing them with professional development opportunities and the expertise of our amazing team. Angelique Valderrama-Romero, a Mingei intern from Cristo Rey San Diego High School, worked hard on designing the symbols used in the pysanky case to help people read their symbols. She researched the different variations of a motif and ultimately created a single design to showcase it visually. We are excited to showcase her contributions in this case.

The eggs in this case are created by local pysanky artist, Natalie Gebet, as representations of specific regions or contemporary interpretations of a pysanka. Gebet was born to Ukrainian parents in Argentina and moved to Los Angeles as a young child. She was first introduced to the art form by her great aunt, who was also a pysanky artist. Gebet learned the craft at the Ukrainian Art Center in Los Angeles, where she embraced the symbolism and history of her cultural heritage. She has now been part of the San Diego community for over 35 years and is one of the foremost local experts on pysanky. She served as the treasurer for the House of Ukraine for 15 years – a member of the House of Pacific Relation cottages here in Balboa Park – and continues to be deeply involved with the organization and the Ukrainian community at large.

A special thanks to Grisel Marquez-Razon, Jerry Maloney, David Leroi, Caitlin Podas, Patricia Cué, Elizabeth Martinez, Ron Kerner, and Angelique Valderrama-Romero for this case's incredible design and creation!

Summer at Mingei

Summer Camp

Summer camp is in session! Mingei is excited to offer Summer at Mingei for another year, which is a summer enrichment program funded by Level Up SD via the San Diego Foundation.

Tailored for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students, Summer at Mingei offers kids the chance to dive into folk art, craft, and design from various cultures. This full-day program runs from Monday to Friday and highlights children's natural inclination to create and unleash their imaginations. Collaborating with arts educators and community artists, students will discover how art fosters a sense of belonging and connects individuals through creative expression, exhibition tours, and engaging discussions. Summer at Mingei is free of charge and will serve 75 students throughout the months of July and August.

With over $14 million in funds requested to offer distinctive enrichment experiences for San Diego Unified students and only $7.2 million available for grants, this funding cycle was fiercely competitive. Mingei was among the organizations selected for Level Up SD 2024, and we’re thrilled to have the chance to offer our summer programming again this year. Through the combined efforts and collaborative spirit of all selected organizations, more than 50 groups will collectively provide over 10,000 opportunities for summer enrichment.


July 15 - 19

July 22 - 26

July 29 - August 9 (two week session)

Registration is run by San Diego Unified via InPlay. Mingei is unable to register students on their behalf.

While sign-ups are currently full, click the link below to join the waitlist!

San Diego Design Week 2024

This is a special year for one of Mingei's most impactful programs in the local design community – SDDW – and we want to tell you all about it! Since the last edition of this design festival, Mingei has been collaborating with Design Forward Alliance (DFA), an organization initiated by the Design Lab at UC San Diego in 2016 that promotes design-driven innovation in business, education, and government. We have collaborated to present this year’s event as one of the seven signature events of the World Design Capital San Diego Tijuana 2024 program. This year’s theme, BELONGING, opens design as a discipline with a shared responsibility for radical inclusion. Our hope is that with this theme as the guiding compass for the lineup of events, designers and non-designers alike will engage and connect with the full range of possibilities of design in our binational region.

This year, SDDW will be presented September 18-25 as a full-week curated and community-organized program, geographically organized to facilitate equal access and participation throughout our city. SDDW will once again serve as a platform that welcomes design champions that have shared their work, knowledge, and experience during the past three editions, and include new participants that will show that design is a tool and a way of thinking that allows all of us to solve real-world challenges in our community.

Check out this year’s color palette and updated website at sddesignweek.org. For those interested in presenting an event, the call for submissions will open on April 17th. Stay tuned for the program lineup, which will be available in July.

Dine Global, Stay Local

Culinary adventures are back! ARTIFACT at Night is an exclusive monthly event that offers a prix fixe dinner, each time highlighting the diverse flavors of various regions around the world.

In April, embark on a gastronomic journey to Colombia; then, in May, explore the flavors of the Pacific Northwest; and mark your calendar for June, when the spotlight turns to Grecian cuisine. Don't miss your chance to take part in these one-of-a-kind dining experiences.

Upcoming 2024 ARTIFACT at Night Dates

  • April 18 - Colombia
  • May 23 - Pacific Northwest
  • June 20 - Greece

Calendar of Events

Donate a Vehicle and Support Our Mission

Did you know you can donate your car to Mingei? This is a different way to support the Museum’s mission of sharing folk art, craft, and design with the community. Running or not, all vehicles are considered, and can range from cars, trucks, motorcycles, and trailers to planes, farm machinery, and more! Donations are easy, free, and tax deductible. Vehicle donations directly contribute to Mingei and may also have these added benefits:

  • No longer having to worry about the costs of maintaining a vehicle
  • Avoiding the hassle of selling your car, including costs that go towards advertising, repairs, and insurance
  • Freeing up space in your home

Learn more and complete the online donation form here or contact Heather with any questions at hkerner@mingei.org or (619) 704-7504.

Our Supporters

Donors of Note: Ancestors to the Future

A warm thank you to Mingei’s Ancestors to the Future members. These invested patrons have recognized the Museum with a legacy gift, a bequest or other planned gift, to ensure that Mingei’s presence is sustained long into the future. These members provide essential funds that continue to make the Museum a special cultural gift, now and into the future.

See the list of supporters and download the Ancestors to the Future brochure here.

Purchase a ticket today!

Explore folk art, craft, and design from across cultures and time.