The excitement is building (literally!) as construction continues on the Hilbert Museum’s long-awaited expansion. The expanded museum, set to open in early 2024, will be nearly triple the size of the original museum, growing from 7,500 square feet to more than 22,000 square feet.

The stunning re-design, by Johnston Marklee Associates of Los Angeles, enfolds two side-by-side buildings (the original Hilbert Museum at 167 N. Atchison Street in Orange and the former Chapman Dance Center just north of it) and joins them with a “floating rectangle,” open to the sky at the top, which unites the buildings visually and will provide shade to the courtyard below.

 On the grand front of the floating rectangle, a 40-ft x 16-ft mosaic, “Pleasures Along the Beach” by acclaimed California artist Millard Sheets (1907-1989), will glitter and gleam. The 1969 mosaic, donated to the museum by the owner of a former Home Savings of America building in Santa Monica, is made up of thousands of tiny pieces of Murano glass from Italy. Its restoration and installation on the museum’s façade will be a story in itself when it occurs. One of the original installers who worked on the mosaic in 1969 will oversee the process.

 The expansion will allow the Hilbert Museum to add galleries for Indigenous American art and American design, while also adding additional gallery space for visiting exhibitions and the museum’s acclaimed permanent collection of California fine art, animation and movie art, and American illustration. The new design will also feature a café; a community room for lectures, classes and events; outdoor event space; a research library and more.

 The design — which grew out of more than two years of Zoom planning meetings with the architects, museum leadership, Chapman leadership and donors Mark and Janet Hilbert during and after the pandemic — pays tribute to local Orange industrial and mercantile architecture as well as to the Orange Barrio community, with significant influences from iconic architecture created by Mexico’s Luis Barragán (1902-1988).

 Further news about construction progress, the mosaic restoration/installation, and plans for the Hilbert Museum’s Grand Re-Opening in 2024 will be released in coming months.

For the construction interim, museum operations have moved to The Hilbert Temporary at 216 E. Chapman Ave. in Orange and the museum is presenting exhibitions there, free and open to the public (Tue-Sat, 11am to 5pm).

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