We had the good fortune of connecting with Patricia Cué and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Patricia, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
Located in San Diego’s Balboa Park Mingei International Museum collects, preserves and exhibits “Art of the World, Art of the People”. It sparks relevant and stimulating conversations about folk art, craft and design from all eras and cultures while inspiring its visitors to imagine and express their own creativity.
The museum’s recent renovation digs deeper into its mission combining the principles of creativity, delight and broad access. The $55 million dollar renovation is centered around the human experience, with the unticked Commons Level offering visitors the opportunity to see objects from the museum’s permanent collection, shop at the museum store, grab a coffee at Craft Cafe or dine at its full-service restaurant Artifact (opening October 2021). This new space also provides people of all ages, toddlers to adults, the opportunity to express their creativity through hands-on art-making activities or advance their knowledge of folk art, craft and design through lectures and tours.
Mingei’s passion for folk art, craft and design is also deeply rooted in the relationship between object, maker and community. As the presenter of San Diego Design Week, Mingei opens its doors (literally and figuratively) to the San Diego and Tijuana design community, cultivating a space where one can both inspire and be inspired. San Diego Design Week is an annual five-day celebration of design featuring presentations, studio tours, workshops and self-guided tours hosted by groups throughout the binational design community of San Diego-Tijuana. It features programs feature all disciplines of design — from interior and landscape design, to fashion, graphic design, technology, and more.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The work I do today as Mingei’s Creative Director is the reward for 20 years of working in different settings, but mostly in academia. It doesn’t sound like an obvious transition, but having taught, researched and managed a graphic design department at San Diego State University for eleven years prepared me to do and enjoy the work I do today. Working with students and local community groups taught me how to visualize and create meaningful work through and for others. It’s important to be able to articulate concepts, identify problems and opportunities, and trust the process of discussion and iteration with one’s design partners. I feel that designers often work on their own, feeling they have some form of special talent or unique taste that allows them to create good work, I strongly disagree with that. I think that everyone is creative and that everyone has a voice that this is multiplied through collaboration. The process is a matter of molding and shaping an idea so others can connect with the message.
I value vernacular design tremendously, the raw and pure expression of the untrained eye and hand has a spontaneous and no-b voice that responds to need, function and available resources. As a result of exploring a form of grassroots design, in 2014 I had a book published on the vernacular branding of Mexican Norteño/Banda music; it wasn’t the bestseller sensation that I, of course, wanted it to be, but it made me articulate what I’m passionate about and why it matters. The Bardas de Baile book gave me the courage to formulate, share and stand by my ideas. Call it fate, good luck or hard work, I feel incredibly fortunate that today I work at a museum that is all about the voice of people and their art.
It’s an irony that I found my dream job at 56! I can’t say that I planned my career to turn out this way, but I can certainly say that knowing where my heart was helped guide the decisions that lead me to where I am today. Sometimes that meant doing two jobs, one for passion and one for a paycheck, but genuinely caring and giving has been my compass. can’t do anything without those two components.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start the day with breakfast at Caroline’s Seaside Café in La Jolla, next to the Scripps Pier. The view and the pancakes are outstanding! I would have a walk along La Jolla Shores and then head over to visit the Salk Institute and to Torrey Pines National Park for a short hike. Lunch would be in Barrio Logan, with a stop at Gonzalez Market to purchase carnitas, tortillas, avocados and salsa for a picnic at Chicano Park, under the Coronado bridge. I would end the day in Balboa Park, for some art, dinner and a cocktail at Artifact, the bistro at the Mingei Museum.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a big shoutout to Susan Merritt who has been my mentor, friend and design whisperer during my journey. Susan always poses the tough questions I don’t want to listen to, but have to. She also gives my work and decisions perspective and context with her knowledge on the history of design. Just as inspiring, is the MAD (Marketing And Design) team at Mingei International Museum that I work with every day. They make me laugh, keep me young, keep me in check and support me in (most of) my ideas.
Photography by Ron Kerner Posters and Book design by Patricia Cué