More than a year removed from completion of a retrofit redefining its look and feel, the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla recently received a $750,000 federal matching fund grant.
Funding supplied by the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Infrastructure and Capacity Building Challenge grant, will go toward infrastructure improvements at the La Jolla museum site, closed for reconstruction since January 2017.
“When you get a grant that’s not programmatic, but is for the operation of your museum facility, it’s a big deal,” said Kathryn Kanjo, the David C. Copley director/CEO at MCASD. “It’s a vote of confidence for your organization as a whole. It’s going to really help us build this new building more than doubling the size of our La Jolla flagship, and quadrupling its gallery spaces. It recognizes our 75-year history, our vision for the future and our sound operations.”
MCASD’s grant is one of 32 NEH Challenge grants totaling $30.9 million to be awarded nationwide supporting 188 humanities projects in 45 states. Monies are meant to strengthen and sustain humanities infrastructure and capacity-building activities at cultural institutions. MCASD is the only San Diego recipient. It is also the largest grant dollar awardee in California this year. This is the fifth NEH grant awarded to MCASD since 1994.
Grant funds will support construction expenses for the expansion of the museum’s La Jolla campus, creating capacity for display of the museum’s permanent collection alongside temporary exhibitions.
The project, led by Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA, Selldorf Architects, will quadruple interior galleries while also creating stunning outdoor gathering spaces, including seaside terraces and an art park.
“NEH is pleased to support the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla campus expansion,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “This exciting project will help MCASD better serve the public by putting more of its significant collection of contemporary art on display.”
The federal grant comes with an obligation.
“We have to match every dollar,” Kanjo said. “We need to raise $3 million to receive that $750,000 grant. This grant brings us to $81 million in monies raised. We need another $20 million.”
In the two years that MCASD La Jolla has been closed for reconstruction, the property has been cleared and excavation work has been underway.
“Much of the new building is going to be two stories, and all the parking is going to be underground,” said Kanjo, noting construction work so far has involved supporting the museum’s structural foundation.
Noting they’re still formulating the timeline for final completion of the museum renovation project, Kanjo said it’s looking like it could be completed “before the end of the year in fall 2021.”
The museum director said the retrofit will be worth the long wait.
“It’s going to be very dramatic,” Kanjo said. “Besides quadrupling our gallery space, it will allow us to highlight our global collection, the strength of which is art from California and Latin America. This also supports our outdoor public spaces that come with the [indoor] galleries — a new art park plaza and two new exterior ocean terraces.”
Founded in 1941, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is the preeminent contemporary visual arts institution in San Diego County. The museum's collection includes more than 4,700 works of art created since 1950. In addition to presenting exhibitions by international contemporary artists, the museum serves thousands of children and adults annually at its varied education programs, and offers a rich program of film, performance and lectures.
Opened in 1941, MCASD La Jolla has previously undergone several architectural expansions: La Jolla architects Mosher & Drew completed a series of expansions in 1950, 1960 and the late 1970s; and Venturi Scott Brown & Associates did an entryway renovation in 1996.
MCASD is a private, nonprofit organization, with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. It is supported by generous contributions and grants from MCASD members and other individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies. (Below is Kathryn Kanjo, museum director)