Charles Mason

A groundbreaking ceremony and the appointment of the inaugural director both herald the beginning of the new Kruizenga Art Museum at Hope College.

The groundbreaking for the museum, which will provide exhibition space and house the college’s Permanent Art Collection, will be held on Friday, May 24, at 2 p.m. at the museum’s future home on Columbia Avenue south of 11th Street.  The public is invited, and admission is free.

Newly named as the museum’s first director is Charles Mason, who is executive director of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif.  Mason, who will be coming to Hope having spent more than 17 years in the museum field, will assume his new role starting Monday, July 1, focusing on program development in advance of the museum’s opening.

The Kruizenga Art Museum, scheduled for completion in 2015, will be built immediately northwest of the De Pree Art Center, for a total project cost of $5 million including construction and a maintenance endowment goal.  The museum, designed by Hope College graduate Matt VanderBorgh, is being developed with an emphasis on engaging faculty and students from many academic disciplines in the study and interpretation of art, and envisioned as an educational resource not only for the college but for West Michigan.

The museum will provide exhibition space for the college’s extensive Permanent Collection as well as visiting exhibitions, with additional support for curation of the collection.  It will complement the De Pree Art Center, which will continue to host exhibitions in addition to housing the offices and faculty and student studios of the department of art.

The Kruizenga Art Museum is among the initiatives of the college’s “A Greater Hope” comprehensive campaign, announced in October 2011.  It is being named in honor of a leadership gift from Dr. Richard and the late Margaret Kruizenga of Dallas, Texas, and Holland.

The Kruizengas’ support reflects both their long-time love for art, developed across their lives as they lived in locations across the U.S. as well as in Australia, Malaysia and Japan, and their decades of involvement with Hope.  Each graduated from the college in 1952, and Richard was a member of the college’s Board of Trustees from 1984 to 1996.  Richard studied economics and business at Hope and went on to a career with Exxon, from which he is now retired.  Margaret majored in sociology, later teaching at the college level.  Margaret died on Sunday, April 28.

The museum’s architect, Matt VanderBorgh of The Hague, The Netherlands, is a 1984 Hope graduate who is director of C Concept Design, which has developed projects in 19 countries on four continents.  Leadership guidance for advance programmatic planning has been provided by Donald Battjes, a 1968 Hope graduate from Los Angeles, Calif., who is retired from a career in corporate facilities and real estate administration, most recently as chief of operations and facility planning with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Mason’s career experiences include serving with independent art museums as well as art museums affiliated with academic institutions.  He is a specialist in Asian art whose publications include the book “Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and Its Impact in Europe” (as co-author), as well as numerous scholarly articles and exhibition catalogs.  In college and university settings, he has taught courses in museum studies as well as Chinese art history, and has also engaged faculty and students in curating exhibitions.

He has been with the Pacific Asia Museum since 2011.  His previous professional experience includes serving as chief curator of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada, from 2007 to 2011; chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art of the University of Florida in Gainesville from 2003 to 2007; and curator of Asian art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin College in Ohio.  While conducting his graduate work, he was also a curatorial intern at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Calif., and a research intern with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

Mason completed his bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature at Cambridge University in England in 1991, and his master’s in Asian studies and art history at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993.  He subsequently pursued two years of doctoral work before taking his first full-time curatorial position at Oberlin in 1996.

Participants in the May 24 groundbreaking ceremony will include the Rev. Dr. William Boersma, vice-chairperson of the college’s Board of Trustees; Dr. James Bultman, president of Hope College; Kurt Dykstra, mayor of Holland; William Mayer, professor of art; and Matthew VanderBorgh.

Work across the summer months will focus on the museum site, including the removal of two cottages that had served as student housing and an adjacent parking lot, and transformation of the former 11th Street into a pedestrian walkway between Columbia and Lincoln avenues.