Summer 2023 | Mingei International Museum

A Word from Jess

I love summertime at Mingei. With school out and tourism surging, our galleries are busier than ever. Mini Mingei spills outdoors, summer camp is in session at the Museum, and with longer days Balboa Park is bustling well into the evening. Music from the organ concerts floats up to the Prado, and the wonderful aromas from ARTIFACT waft out to the courtyard. And of course, the best place to take it all in is from a comfortable perch on one of our terraces.

Behind the scenes, while still enjoying the summer, we are already deep into preparation for the installation of our fall shows: Washi Transformed and Over/Under: Woven Craft at Mingei Weaving is an apt metaphor for the collective effort that makes everything work here at Mingei, during every season of the year. The strength created by the warp and the weft, and patterns emerging through the repetition of action - our staff, volunteers, and community partners all work together to construct every aspect of the dynamic, inspiring Mingei experience.

You’ll see this in action both figuratively and literally if you stop by the Museum from October 24 through October 27 and watch San Diego artist Yomar Augusto create a large-scale mural for the exhibition Over/Under. And you’ll also see it when you read in this issue about how Education Specialist Diana Benvídez revamped our Girl Scouts program. We are all in a continuous motion of moving – dare we say over and under – to show how Mingei can be woven into the lives of everyone in our community.

This process of weaving community is carried out by our volunteers as well. Often the quiet workers behind the scene, our volunteers do so much, which is why I want to highlight here those who support the daily work of our staff to successfully deliver programs and events. Mingei Docent Corps, led by Docent Ambassador Chair Sue Riley and Docent Ambassador Liaison Nancy Howard, collectively spent more than 400 hours of time here at Mingei this past year, providing tours for visitors of all ages, particularly elementary school groups. Each of these students has a memorable experience at Mingei thanks to our knowledgeable and passionate tour leaders!

We’d be lost without our dedicated membership mailing committee, the volunteers who help in the classroom prepping art supplies and projects, those who support hands-on instruction to students, and the cheerful greeters who join us for Free Tuesday every month and special events throughout the year. Our Library is powered by an additional group of dedicated volunteers, who help ensure visitors are greeted, books are shelved in the right location, and the work of reviewing and digitizing the Museum’s archive continues.

Finally, as you scroll down you’ll find a feature on the many interns who have been part of the Mingei team this past year. Most of them worked full-time hours over numerous weeks and months, providing support in social media, archive work, School in the Park, and other programs. Each intern - high school and college age - has surprised us with their creativity and skill, contributing ideas and perspectives that enhance the whole of the Museum.

Another thread, a new pattern – Mingei staff, docents, volunteers, and interns seamlessly work together to create a beautifully woven experience for all who visit the Museum. You are all an essential part of what makes Mingei, Mingei and I hope to see you at the Museum – adding your own thread to our tapestry – very soon.


Jessica Hanson York
Executive Director & CEO


Cover Photo Credit: Eriko Horiki, Washi Light Object ISHI, 2017, Washi paper and resin mold, light fixture (steel), Image courtesy of the artist, © Eriko Horiki.

Exhibition Highlight

Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper

October 14, 2023 – January 72024

For over 1,000 years, Japan has produced some of the world’s finest paper, using strong natural fibers and exceptional production techniques passed down through the generations. Japanese handmade paper, known as washi (和紙) is still made in some areas of Japan and used in painting, calligraphy, origami, and other traditional art forms.

Recently, contemporary Japanese artists have been turning to this supple yet sturdy material, using it as a medium for creating highly textured two-dimensional works, complex sculptures, and dramatic installations. Employing techniques ranging from layering, weaving, and dying, to twisting, folding, and cutting, these artists demonstrate the endless contemporary applications of this ancient material.

This exhibition, Washi Transformed, focuses on washi as a medium for contemporary art in Japan and spotlights the works of nine very different contemporary Japanese artists who are exploring the artistic potential of this traditional material. The artists – Hina Aoyama, Eriko Horiki, Kyoko Ibe, Yoshio Ikezaki, Kakuko Ishii, Yuko Kimura, Yuko Nishimura, Takaaki Tanaka, Ayomi Yoshida – all push the boundaries of Japanese washi art in terms of texture, dimension, and scale, creating works that challenge our assumptions about the nature of the material. Their abstract paper sculptures, lyrical folding screens, dramatic installations, and highly textured wall pieces all demonstrate the resilience and versatility of washi as a medium in the realm of international contemporary art.

Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper was organized by Meher McArthur and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Object of Note

Coat by Lili Lare

African by Design: Form, Pattern, and Meaning in African Craft features over 100 works of African craft, including furniture, pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry, clothing, weapons, currency, and more. The objects originate from many areas of Africa, and are part of layered cultural stories and histories. Each work invites us not just to consider the object, but also the maker - a person often unknown to us - whose inspiration and sense of design made an everyday object extraordinary.

One of the fantastic makers featured in this exhibition is fashion designer Lalitibe “Lili” Lare. Lili was born in Togo, West Africa, and arrived in San Diego over twenty years ago. She is the owner of Lili Kouture, a dress shop selling African clothing, which has been a fixture in City Heights for years. Educated at College St. Joseph in Lome, Lili (who had been trained to follow a pattern) began designing her own clothes and creating her own patterns. Her garments have been featured in numerous fashion shows, including The Fall Fashion and Auction Show at the Hilton Hotel in Mission Valley, San Diego Fashion Week, RAW Fashion Week in Los Angeles, and The Hollywood & African Prestigious Award (HAPAWARDS) Foundation in Hollywood, CA, where she was a nominee for best African Designer.

Click the link below to listen to Lili Lare share about the creative process behind her coat that is now on view on the Commons Level as part of the African by Design exhibition. And for more information about Lili and her work, you can read a condensed version of the interview here.

Inspiring Insight

A Conversation with the Co-Founders of San Diego Filipino Cinema

This August the San Diego Filipino Cinema (SDFC) will be featured as our Community Spotlight in the outdoor arcade. Their installation Tela Nobela (Stories on Fabric) and the Sine Kwento (Stories in Film) is an extension of the stories SDFC tells in film through a series of free-flowing quilted curtains constructed with cut and sewn fabrics collected from the clothes of the Filipino and Filipino American communities in San Diego. This quilted curtain also serves as a screen for projecting Filipino films occasionally accompanied by original music.

The San Diego Filipino Cinema has been long-time friends with the Museum, they were the hosts for one of our first-ever Community Mondays where they celebrated the opening of the first inaugural San Diego Filipino Film Festival. We’re thrilled to be able to chat with Co-Founders Benito Bautista and Emma Francisco Bautista.

From the Classroom

Girl Scout Workshops

Mingei’s Education Specialist Diana Benavídez spent the past couple of months organizing special craft workshops for Girl Scouts in the San Diego area. Benavídez worked with the Girl Scouts organization in the past, where she went into different communities in San Diego and helped start Girl Scout troops. When she began working at Mingei as an Education Specialist, she saw an opportunity to connect two communities that don’t often get to meet. “I wanted to rebuild the bridge that I had with the Girl Scout community into the Museum,” Benavídez said. “When I was working at Girl Scouts, I noticed there weren’t a lot of arts, crafts, or cultural activities for them to do.”

Girl Scouts who complete a workshop receive an Arts and Crafts Girl Scout patch, which they can display on their uniforms to show participation in an arts-related activity. Patches and badges are an important part of being a Girl Scout, as you can earn different ones through developing important skills like coding, first aid, or even attending a Girl Scout activity at the Mingei!

Each workshop aims to engage a different age level of Girl Scouts, from Daisies and Brownies up to Juniors and Cadettes. Participants in these workshops also get the opportunity to bond with other Girl Scouts interested in arts and crafts outside of their primary troops.

Benavídez noted that most participants are first-time visitors to Mingei, and that “it was great to see the connections the girls make during the workshops. Many Girl Scouts who become friends through the organization stay friends for life."

The workshops focus on connecting crafts to the exhibitions on view in the Museum. For example, Benavídez taught workshop participants about design principles by looking at Adinkra stamped patterns on Ghanaian textiles and Cameroonian beaded modesty aprons in the exhibition African by Design. Girl Scouts then used linocut methods and natural-material stamps to lay out patterned designs of their own.

Benavídez added that encouraging young people to appreciate craft and design has become a big part of her education plans. “Considering the rise of technology and AI, I think it’s important to appreciate handmade objects more than ever,” she said. “In craft-making, human errors are beautiful.”

Artifact at Mingei

Michelin Guide Recognition

We’ve celebrated exciting news on a culinary front recently — ARTIFACT at Mingei was added to the 2023 Michelin Guide in June, an honor that reflects the careful attention and creativity of the restaurant staff. Recognition in the Michelin Guide means the restaurant is eligible for consideration for Michelin stars in subsequent editions. ARTIFACT was the only San Diego restaurant added to the guide in 2023. It’s a remarkable achievement!

Tracy Borkum, Principal at Urban Kitchen Group, noted that ARTIFACT’s continuing success is a result of a “truly collective team effort between the Mingei Museum, architect Jennifer Luce and chefs Tim Kolanko, Jeff Armstrong, and Tony Coito.”

ARTIFACT’s dinner menu reflects this spirit of culinary creativity through its inventive, international menu. The restaurant offers everything from a sweet pea and chutney samosa to furikake-seasoned albacore, with options for exciting desserts like the strawberry-glazed Basque burnt cheesecake.

In addition to regular dinners, the restaurant’s popular ARTIFACT at Night series offers a four-course dinner featuring cuisine from a different region of the world every month. July’s regional dinner focused on the food of Provence, and August's dinner include dishes from Vietnam.

The team also has the goal of melding fine dining and the restaurant’s artistic surroundings. “We wanted to break the mold of ‘museum dining’ and create a sensory experience that transcends gallery walls,” Borkum said.

The idea of transcending gallery walls extends past the metaphorical— ARTIFACT’s location in the open floor plan of the museum’s Commons Level places fine dining literally alongside our diverse folk art collections, as well as our shop. The restaurant team crafts not just meals, but experiences, allowing visitors to enjoy an internationally recognized meal and admire a world-class collection of art in the same setting.

We’re thrilled that ARTIFACT has been recognized by the Michelin guide, and look forward to continuing to cook up great experiences!

Staff Spotlight

Interns

Interns play a vital role in art museums, bringing fresh perspectives as well as enthusiasm and a passion for art, which can inspire visitors and create a vibrant atmosphere within the museum. Over the past year, the Museum has been fortunate to have wonderful interns across its departments. High Tech High students have interned in both the Marketing and Design and Education departments, while our Collections and Library departments partnered with the University of California San Diego for a collaborative college internship program.

Interns often assist with research, cataloging, and organizing exhibitions, providing invaluable support to the Museum's curatorial team. For example, Nerys Lane our UCSD Stewart Humanities Internship recipient spent much of her time compiling bibliographies and pulling materials for researchers in the library, assisting the curatorial department with writing labels for upcoming exhibitions, interviewing staff and artists to gather information, and helping our educators with programming. Not to mention, she is also an artist herself!

Camille Chang
Nerys Lane

Our Digital Communications Intern, Camille Chang, a rising junior at Yale University, helped enhance the museum's programming by engaging with the community through educational programs, such as our newest gallery activation Visitor Voices. Visitor Voices fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of art from the visitor’s perspective. And you’ve even read some of Camille’s writing here in Communiqué! She wrote about our refreshed Girls Scouts program and ARTIFACT’s addition to the Michelin Guide.

This past year we also had two interns from High Tech High: Maarit A’Hearn and Analiese Christenson. Maarit interned with the Marketing and Design department helping add exhibition and collections content to our app and writing social media posts. Analiese interned in the Education Department, creating a one-hour camp project, assisting with School in the Park, and welcoming families during our student exhibition opening night.

Interns contribute their energy, knowledge, and creativity to the Museum, and in return, Mingei ensures they are either compensated or use their hours for a University or High School affiliated program as well as have a meaningful experience to propel them into their future endeavors.

If you’d like to learn more about how a contribution to the Museum can help secure future internship opportunities for up-and-coming museum enthusiasts, send us an email here.

New to the Commons Level

Signature Quilt

Our Commons Level features a selection of objects from our permanent collection that gives a glimpse into the type of works we collect. The works on the walls and cases rotate periodically ensuring there is something new and fresh to see. Our current cases on display feature sake and matcha preparation instruments, Huichol Sierra beaded animal figures, and whimsical Mexican folk art ceramics, to name a few. The newest addition to the Commons Level is this Signature Quilt.

Unidentified Maker, inscribed as presented by friends. Dated 25 December 1900. Signature Quilt, Schoolhouse Variation. United States. Cotton on medium weight batting. Gift of Pat L. Nickols; Digitization made possible through the Quilters Guild of Dallas, Quilt Accessibility Project, 201235170.

Dated from the year 1900, this American quilt depicts a grid of schoolhouses, using the same blocky shape of a stylized schoolhouse but colored with different patterns of fabric. Most of the structures are embroidered with the names of the maker’s friends — see if you can make out a few!

This schoolhouse pattern first became popular in the 1890s, in commemoration of the one-room “little red schoolhouses” that were disappearing from the American landscape. Education was important to early American settlers at the time, and the schoolhouse became symbolic of the pursuit of a better life.

In the Queue

Over/​Under: Woven Craft at Mingei

November 4, 2023 – March 32024

Shrimp Trap, 20th Century, Reed, Indonesia, Museum Purchase, 200404001

The words over and under call our attention to something spatial – over . . . under. They invite us to imagine a maker’s hands, systematically working, weaving, over - under, over - under, transforming filaments of thread or grass, bark or wire, into something whole - a basket, a rug, a fish trap, a fan. Woven crafts have been part of the human experience since our earliest beginnings. In some cultures, the skill of weaving is tied to a mythical teacher, such as a spider weaving its web. Woven objects continue to be made around the world as objects of use, and also as works of art to be contemplated for their beauty and technical mastery. 

Eve Gulick, Broken Moon, Double Weave”, 1964, U.S.A., Linen, Gift of Sidney L. Gulick, III, 200140004
Chair, Wood, twine, Bequest of Alice Di Gesu, 2006 – 15-001A‑B

This exhibition features over 75 works, including textiles, basketry, garments, hats, toys, jewelry, and more. Examples include giant fish traps from the Philippines, a Japanese silkworm basket, traditional woven rain boots, Egyptian woven textiles, and loomed beaded purses. Local makers include Kumeyaay artist Eva Salazar, weaver Sarah Winston, and others.

Kumeyaay Artist Eva Salazar
Weaver Sarah Winston
Artist Yomar Augusto

A major component of the exhibition is a large mural by San Diego artist Yomar Augusto, whose lyrical, linear paintings evoke woven forms. Visitors can watch Yomar paint the mural from Tuesday, October 24 through Friday, October 27.  

An interactive weaving activity will also be installed in the gallery, inviting visitors to experience Over/Under with their own hands.

Calendar of Events

Donors of Note

Mingei International Museum is grateful to all its members and friends who provide financial support throughout the year. Be it through an annual membership, a contribution to the annual appeal, a donation in support of special exhibitions or programs, or a legacy gift through a will or bequest – every donor provides essential funds that continue to make the Museum a special place for all.

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