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Rep. Young Kim at Hilbert Museum

Feb 24, 2024 | In The News

Orange County Register

In Orange’s Old Towne, just a few steps away from the train station, a newly expanded Hilbert Museum of California Art awaits visitors, now housing 26 galleries and more than 5,000 art pieces.

The museum has taken over the building next door on North Atchison Street, allowing it to triple in size from its original 7,500 square feet. The new venue now offers a café, research library, community room for classes and events, as well as an outdoor courtyard.

“It’s a dream come true. It’s exciting to see people thoroughly enjoying the museum and having a wonderful experience,” said Mark Hilbert, the museum’s benefactor along with his wife, Janet. The couple donated the art and $3 million in seed money to Chapman University to create the museum a decade ago and even more of their collection fills the expanded space.

“To see them leave the museum feeling exhilarated, inspired, these are the things that bring a reward,” Hilbert said Friday after the museum reopened to the public following a year of construction to expand the space. “Makes it all worthwhile for all the hard work over the last 10 to 12 years to make this happen.”

Hilbert called it a “dream come true” to see pieces from his personal art collection and beyond be enjoyed by members of the public.

“I think people have gotten so used to looking at cellphones that they’ve forgotten about the possibility of going someplace where they can be stimulated and see such a variety of different things all in one place, and be up close with paintings and see brushworks and feel emotions of the artist,” Hilbert said. “You can’t do that over the phone. Looking at a Van Gogh over the phone, or looking at a piece of art, it doesn’t do the same as it is when you’re there seeing the energy emanating from his brushwork.”

The museum’s collect draws from the California Scene Painting movement, as well as movie and animation art.

“This is art everybody relates to. Places people have seen in California,” Hilbert said.  “It brings up these memories, and allows people to really connect with the art. These paintings tell stories and people love to tell stories.”

Mary Platt, director of the Hilbert Museum, said she is “beyond thrilled” to see the newly designed museum become a reality.

“We saw the drawings and the renderings of this amazing complex start to take shape. But, it’s really not until a few weeks ago, we moved in here and started installing the art, that we became really aware of how wonderful these buildings are,” Platt said. “They are a work of art in themselves.”

The Hilbert Museum is reopening with nine new exhibitions showcasing Southern California life, Disney movie art and special exhibitions dedicated to Norman Rockwell and artist Millard Sheets.

Looking at the face of the expanded museum, the two buildings have been connected by the 40-foot California-classic mural, “Pleasures Along the Beach,” by Sheets. An exhibition on Sheets will feature 40 original paintings from the Hilbert collection and other sources.

“Another exhibition that we’re doing is all about Orange County. It’s called ‘Same Place Another Time.’ These are all paintings by some of California’s top artists. Various scenes around our own Orange County,” Platt said. “I think that will really resonate with a lot of people.”

The museum will be opened to the public, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free; reservations are required.

Free guided tours, when available led by Mark Hilbert, are offered at 11 a.m. each Thursday. For more information call 714-516-5880, or visit hilbertmuseum.org.

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