Balboa Park Centennial Exhibitions at 11 San Diego Museums

Written by Danielle Susalla Deery on Friday, August 7, 2015 - Read 3216 times
Balboa Park Centennial Exhibitions at 11 San Diego Museums

You don’t have to be in Balboa Park to feel the buzz of the Balboa Park Centennial celebration. 2015 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916, an international fair presented in one of the nation’s largest urban parks, San Diego’s Balboa Park. Museums and cultural centers all around San Diego are presenting exhibitions throughout the year honoring not only Balboa Park but also, the people that helped develop the city, and the artifacts that provide tangible evidence to our collective history. Enjoy learning about the cultural and artistic heritage of San Diego through these exhibitions. For additional information on Centennial celebration happenings and more details on the following listings visit

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Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego, Balboa Park
Garden of Unity, Balboa Park's Japanese Legacy
On view through December 31, 2015
Garden of Unity is a joint project of the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego (JFG) and the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego (JAHSSD). This exhibition educates visitors about the people who were responsible for 100 years of Japanese presence in Balboa Park through a collection of artifacts, photographs and personal stories.

Japanese Friendship Garden San Diego, Balboa Park
Japanese Bamboo And The World Expo: A Century Of Discovery
On view through December 6, 2015
In honor of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition centennial celebration, TAI Modern presents over forty bamboo artworks from various Japanese artists and craftsman created from 1887 to the present. World’s fairs once facilitated cultural exchange and inspired Japanese artists to embrace creative traditions and innovation. This exhibit hopes to reinvigorate the spirit of these important moments in time.

marston house

Marston House

Marston House, Balboa Park
Balboa Park Exposition Designers 1915-1935
On view through November 30, 2015
In partnership with the San Diego AIA Preservation Committee, this exhibition showcases the architects, designers, and landscape architects of the 1915 and 1935 expositions. The work of over 20 of the most significant designers will be presented with an exhibition of drawings and photographs with accompanying publications, lectures, and architectural tours.

Marston House, Balboa Park
Souvenirs & Keepsakes: Memorabilia of the 1915 & 1935 Expositions
On view through November 30, 2015
The tourism movement of the turn of the century as experienced by San Diego’s Exposition visitors will be explored through the personal objects that were eagerly sought after and collected, such as buttons, pennants, postcards, coins, and jewelry. These keepsakes have been handed down through the generations as tangible historical mementos of the Expositions, and continue to be cherished to this day.

Marston House, Balboa Park
Art of the Park: 100 Years of Art in Balboa Park (1915-2015)
On view through September 30, 2015
The Park as Muse is the theme for what is one of the nation’s most beautiful and most painted parks. Artists have recognized Balboa Park as a monumental work of art in itself, for both its natural beauty and landscaped vistas, and for its stunning built environment of the architecture of the Panama-California and California Pacific International Expositions. Period artists will be exhibited along with today’s foremost San Diego artists, all featuring only Balboa Park imagery. Art shows in the garden will accompany the exhibition once a month on Sundays for six months showcasing San Diego artists.

Marston House, Balboa Park
Exposition Memories - The Music, Literature and Decorative Arts of the 1915 San Diego Exposition
On view through November 20, 2015
The 1915 Exposition highlighted the literary and artistic heritage of California and the greater Southwest, creating widespread interest in the region at a time when writers, artists, and intellectuals were prominent in daily life. Exhibits are located throughout the museum, and will showcase the rich artistic and cultural heritage of the Exposition, with a varied collection of music, literature, and decorative arts.


MOPA, Dream City Exhibition Image

MOPA (Museum of Photographic Art), Balboa Park
Dream City: The 1915 Panama-California Exposition
On view through September 27, 2015
Balboa Park was described as the Dream City during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. To celebrate the centennial anniversary, this exhibition highlights photographs taken of the exhibition by Francis Bruguière, a San Francisco-born member of the Photo-Secession movement, which sought to legitimize photography as a fine art medium, putting it on equal ground with painting and sculpture.

MCASD Downtown, Jacobs Building, Downtown San Diego
John D. Spreckels and The Impossible Railroad
On view through November 01, 2015
In an exhibition that will help celebrate the Centennial of Balboa Park’s 1915 Panama-California Exposition, artists Suzanne Hellmuth and Jock Reynolds will take as their point of departure MCASD Downtown’s Jacobs Building. Once the baggage terminal of the historic Santa Fe Depot, the building was constructed under the ownership of John D. Spreckels. Hellmuth and Reynolds are creating a layered, multi-media installation employing working model trains, projected historic photographs, and an abundance of vintage luggage. The artists will explore how John D. Spreckels, San Diego’s great pioneering business leader and benefactor, pressed on against every imaginable setback to fully complete America’s southern transcontinental railroad route.

Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside
100 Artists: 100 Years: The San Diego Museum of Art Guild, 1915-2015
Exhibition ended July 26, 2015
This extraordinary exhibition featured works by one hundred distinguished artists who lived and worked in San Diego during the last century and who were, or are currently, Artists Guild members. Established in 1915, the Artists Guild was instrumental in founding The San Diego Museum of Art in 1926 and, to this day remains an integral part of San Diego’s visual arts scene.

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San Diego Air and Space Museum, Online Exhibition Image

San Diego Air and Space Museum, Online Exhibition
The Evolution of Balboa Park & the Rebirth of SDASM
This online exhibit will guide visitors through the entangled history between the City of San Diego, Balboa Park and the San Diego Air & Space Museum and will illustrate how Balboa Park has expanded and transformed since its creation in 1915. Balboa Park owes its existence to many important people, and especially to hundreds of thousands of San Diegans that have contributed, volunteered, and visited the museums in this park.

San Diego Automotive Museum, Balboa Park
Balboa Park, Postwar...Fins and Wings
On view through September 25, 2015
After the war, the economy boomed and car design reflected the influence of military aircraft and jets. During the era of “big wings and fins,” the lifestyles of Americans changed drastically. This was the dawn of suburbia and interstate highways. American driving habits changed enormously during that time, and the whimsical designs of the 1950s led the way.

San Diego Automotive Museum, Balboa Park
Balboa Park, the Future
October 2 through December 26, 2015
What will your garage look like 20 years from now? Concept cars are always designed with an eye at least 10-20 years into the future. This exhibit will feature concept cars that are in current design, as well as cars that never made it past the concept phase. Alternative fuel sources will also be illustrated.

San Diego History Center, Balboa Park
San Diego Invites the World: The 1915 Expo
On view through January 10, 2016
This exhibition demonstrates the legacy of the Expo that put San Diego on the map and created the nation’s largest urban cultural park. See rare Expo silent film footage, historic photos and unique memorabilia. Visitors will electronically record what they would place in a 2015 time capsule to be buried at the close of 2015.

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SDHC, Masterworks of the Exposition Era Exhibition Image

San Diego History Center, Balboa Park
Masterworks of the Exposition Era
On view through January 10, 2016
Masterworks commemorates the path-breaking art displayed at the 1915 Exposition, which featured a dramatic presentation of the work of prominent California and American artists. The History Center has gathered more than 80 masterpieces, some actually shown in 1915, in this historic exhibition, exploring the cultural impact of 1915 on San Diego.

San Diego Model Railroad Museum, Balboa Park
Centennial Railway Garden
Consisting of a model of Balboa Park in 1915, the Centennial Railway Garden exhibit will feature a spectacular use of new technology, sustainable-energy practices, and sculptural art. An innovative smart phone application will operate exhibit lighting, sounds, streetcars, and models of park structures.

San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa Park
Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed
On view through January 3, 2016
The largest exhibition of its kind in the United States, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed invites visitors to uncover the rise and eventual decline of this majestic civilization through never-before-seen artifacts, hands-on activities, multimedia components, and recreated environments.
Discover what archaeologists know about the ancient Maya as well as the unresolved questions they continue to investigate. Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed explores the fascinating social, natural, and spiritual realms of the ancient Maya through the eyes of powerful kings and queens and the lesser-known people who were the backbone of Maya society.

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theNAT Coast to Cactus Exhibition Image

San Diego Natural History Museum, Balboa Park
Coast to Cactus in Southern California
Always on view
The southern California you’ve never seen. Now see it all in one place. Not only is this region one of the nicest places to live, it’s one of the most interesting places in the world due to its amazing diversity of plant and animal life. The coastline, mountains, deserts, and more—it’s all here, ready to be explored. Coast to Cactus in Southern California, a brand-new, permanent exhibition at theNAT, invites visitors to take a journey through this amazing place we call home.

The New Children’s Museum
Opens October 17, 2015
Children and adults will discover California through the imagination of artists and explore the power of creative thinking. Eureka! will feature new art installations created by local, regional and national artists. Additionally, the Museum will develop art workshops, educational programs and lesson plans to complement each installation. As part of Eureka! families will be able to climb a tower that tells a visual story about a century of California dwellings and belt out “car-a-oke” in an immersive music experience. Visitors will also be able to experience the highways and byways of California with miniature vehicles, and make rewarding discoveries about California’s interconnected waterways and freeways. Visitors can also check out an indoor beach unlike any seen before - and so much more.

Danielle Susalla Deery

Danielle Susalla Deery is an Independent Curator, Adjunct Art History Professor, San Diego museum aficionado, mother and former Director of Exhibits and Communications at Oceanside Museum of Art.

You can reach Danielle at