The Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University opened in 2016 and is the home of one of the world’s largest collections of California narrative art. Founded through the ongoing generosity of art patrons and philanthropists Mark and Janet Hilbert, it represents the only museum in the world committed to tracing the rich, iconic history of the Golden State from the late 19th century to the present day through works by leading California Scene artists and Hollywood studio artists and animators.
In November 2014, Chapman University announced that it had received from the Hilberts a major gift of California art valued at more than $7 million in addition to $3 million from the couple toward establishing a museum on campus in which to permanently display the collection to the public.
“This will be the first museum anywhere that is totally dedicated to the display of California Scene and California representational art,” said Mark Hilbert. “The intent will be to cast a spotlight on this style of painting and these amazing artists, and to make this art known around the world. California has its own style, its own light, its own distinct landscape. California Scene paintings are distinguished from the earlier style of California Impressionism because these works show people and the works of humans: towns, cities, harbors, houses, ranches, cars, trains – people going about their everyday lives. These paintings show the changes taking place across our state as it grew, starting around 1920 – changes that are still happening and reflected in today’s representational art.”
The Hilbert Collection encompasses more than 5,000 pieces, including oils, watercolors and drawings of urban and industrial scenes, coastal views, and landscapes of everyday life in California, one of the largest private collections of Disney art, and works by Norman Rockwell and other 20th Century illustrators acquired by the Hilberts since 1992. Among the museum’s most celebrated works are those by luminaries Millard Sheets, Emil Kosa Jr., Mary Blair, Phil Dike, Milford Zornes, and Rex Brandt. A portion of the Hilbert collection will be displayed in the Museum’s permanent collection along with rotating temporary exhibits will be scheduled.
Deeply committed to the art of visual storytelling, the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University’s mission is to engage, educate, entertain and inspire visitors of all ages; enriching appreciation and understanding of the unique history, people and places of California through a continuously changing program of dynamic exhibitions, publications, lectures, concerts and other public programs.
As director of the Hilbert Museum of California Art at Chapman University since 2017, Mary Platt has guided the museum to regional and national acclaim. She is an adjunct Chapman faculty member and serves on the university’s Phi Beta Kappa advisory board.
Previously, Mary was Chapman’s communications and media relations director for 13 years, following PR and marketing work with the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County (CA), New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ and Wharton Center for Performing Arts in East Lansing, MI. She has written articles on the arts for many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Detroit Free Press, Revue magazine, Art of the Times and others.
Mary holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art history from Michigan State University.