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Chapman to Expand Hilbert Museum Threefold

Chapman University’s Hilbert Museum of California Art has released more details about its upcoming expansion, which will nearly triple its size by 2023.

According to school officials, construction at the Old Towne Orange site, next to the city’s train station, will begin this summer, and boost its gallery space from about 7,600 to nearly 22,000 square feet.

The expansion will not only enlarge the museum’s gallery space but also add a research library and conference room, a community room for lectures and events, and an outdoor courtyard with an adjoining café, officials said.

The total cost of the project is $12 million, which the museum’s founders Mark Hilbert, a Newport Beach real estate owner and manager, and his wife, Janet, a former community college professor, will fund.

The couple’s personal collection of over 3,000 California scene paintings, works of movie and animation art and American illustration make up the museum’s permanent exhibit—a trove valued at about $10 million.

“Our quest is to become one of the leading university-based art museums in the nation,” said Mark Hilbert, who to this day still provides free tours on Thursdays at 11 a.m.

“The additional space and the exciting new design will provide a wonderful context for these extraordinary works,” he said.

30K Visitors

Opening in 2016 at 167 N. Atchison St., a few blocks from Chapman’s main campus, the Hilbert Museum has become a popular art destination, reportedly growing from 8,000 visitors in its first year to over 30,000 in 2019.

It stayed largely open over the past two years despite the pandemic.

“The Hilbert Museum is on the cusp of a transformational moment,” Chapman President Daniele Struppa said. “We’re grateful to Mark and Jan Hilbert for their visionary leadership and to the city of Orange and its residents for embracing our vision of Chapman as an important hub for the performing and visual arts.”

The Revamped Hilbert Museum

Officials say the expansion will link the current museum with the building north of it, creating two wings joined by a courtyard.

Johnston Marklee & Associates was named the project’s architect. The Los Angeles-based firm said in its architect’s statement that its design will draw from the collection’s Southern California landscapes, emerging cityscapes, visual graphics and industrial aesthetics.

According to the Hilberts, the new space will also house cultural objects the couple has collected, including Navajo weavings and Pueblo pottery, in what will be called the Founders Gallery.

The museum’s new entrance will also house a 40-foot-long glass mosaic called “Pleasures Along the Beach,” which was designed and created by the late California artist Millard Sheets in 1969.

This artwork was previously displayed on the corner of 26th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, in front of a former Home Savings Bank, which was scheduled for demolition, according to Hilbert Museum Director Mary Platt. It was gifted to the Hilberts by the bank’s owners.

“We’re very pleased to have played a role in conserving this dazzling mosaic so many more generations can enjoy its beauty,” Platt said.

“We can’t wait to start reassembling the tens of thousands of tiny pieces of Italian Murano glass and then watch them reflect the setting sun each afternoon. It will undoubtedly become an iconic piece of art here in Orange.”

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Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp is a staff reporter and occasional photojournalist for the Orange County Business Journal. Her beats include — but are not limited to — healthcare, startups, and education. While pursuing her bachelors in literary journalism at UC Irvine, she interned for New York-based magazine Narratively Inc., wrote for Costa Mesa-based lifestyle magazine Locale, and covered the underground music scene for two SoCal-based music publications. She is an unwavering defendant of the emdash and the Oxford comma.
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