| Matt VanderBorgh ’84
||Donald Battjes ’68
Bringing the college’s new Kruizenga
Art Museum from vision to fruition is a team effort, beginning
with the generosity of the building’s donors and drawing
heavily on the talents of Matt VanderBorgh ’84 and Donald
Battjes ’68, art alumni whose career paths have led them
to unique roles in shaping the facility. Vander Borgh has gone
on to a career as an architect who has completed projects around
the world, and is bringing his internationally acclaimed expertise
back to Hope as designer of the museum. Battjes, newly 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, is playing a leadership
role in guiding the museum’s programmatic needs from
the drawing boards to realization.
Building Hope on Experience
Equipped with their Hope art degrees, they realized their dreams.
Today, Matt Vander Borgh ’84 of The Hague, the Netherlands, and
Donald Battjes ’68 of Los Angeles, Calif., bring their individual
talents and training back to the college, applying career expertise
honed through decades of experience. They are helping make the new Kruizenga
Art Museum a place that will enable new generations of students to achieve
their dreams, too.
An architect internationally acclaimed for his work,
Vander Borgh is director of C Concept Design, which has developed projects
in 19 countries on four continents. He has worked closely with Hope in
designing a building that will not only provide a home for the college’s magnificent Permanent Collection
but will itself serve as a work of art that will express in form its
purpose in function, and will become a hive of activity that extends
itself into the campus and engages students and community alike.
Battjes is playing a leadership role in aiding the college to guide the
museum’s programmatic needs from the drawing boards to
an enduring structure as an outstanding center for learning— a complex
journey given its specialized nature. Recently retired, he is highly
respected in his profession for having done the same for major corporations,
such as Hughes Aircraft and 20th Century Film Corporation, and for the
past 14 years as chief of operations and facility planning with the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Although they attended 16 years
apart, their Hope journeys share some parallels. Each came to the college
with generational ties, Vander Borgh the son of Clarence ’60 and
Joann Barton ’58 Vander Borgh, and Battjes the son of Donald, Sr. ’46
and Maxine Van Zylen ’44 Battjes. Each also pursued an art major because of a strong interest in architecture, planning and design.
Matt Vander Borgh has more reason than most to love the college’s
Without question, he valued his Hope experience in general and his art faculty
mentors in particular.
“Academically, it was a great school,” Vander
Borgh said. “And
it had a great art department—people like Billy Mayer, Bob Vickers,
Del Michel and Jack Wilson.”
It happens, though, that it’s
also why he met his wife, Me Hyun (Cho ’88). He was in the De Pree
Art Center working on a project when she came into the front entryway
to hang a poster for the college’s International Night. That same
entryway offers an ideal view of the space that will soon house the Kruizenga
Since graduation, Vander Borgh, who completed his master’s in architecture
at Harvard University, has lived on both coasts of the U.S. as well as
in Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Austria in addition to the Netherlands. “One
of the great things about architecture is that, at least in the design
side, you can do it anywhere,” he said.
His international experiences have prepared him for—and interested
him in—pursuing projects around the world, from Angola to Thailand,
from the Ukraine to the U.S., and he understands the importance of a global perspective. “We’re often working with completely
different cultures and completely different perspectives, aesthetics
and experiences, and it’s important for us to be able to work with them,” he said.
He correspondingly appreciates the college’s emphasis on preparing
graduates to live in a complex, interconnected world. The design of the
new, 10,000-square-foot art museum, distinctive from the other buildings
on campus in its role as a center for reflection regarding the works within, bespeaks that priority.
“Hope is bigger, more global in outlook than provincial, and I think that’s
a very important element of the museum space,” he said. “Contemporary museums provide visitors an opportunity to think differently
about their life, to think differently about the way that they live, to think about the buildings that they inhabit.”
The new Kruizenga Art Museum will enhance the
role of the college’s Permanent Collection as a teaching
tool, providing space and resources to view and conduct scholarship
on works from around the world and spanning centuries. This
conceptual rendering of the museum looks northeast from above
Kollen Hall. The DeWitt Center is at lower left, the Martha
Miller Center for Global Communication at upper left, and the
De Pree Art Center at upper right.
He has been particularly guided in his approach to the museum’s
design by the vision of lead donors Richard ’52 and Margaret Feldmann ’52 Kruizenga of Irving, Texas, who he noted desired “a
unique and expressive building on the campus with the feeling of transparency… a fluidity between the building and the campus environment.”
He’s been able to involve other young Hope professionals in realizing
the vision as well, at the same time helping them to gain crucial career
experience. Kelsey Browne ’09 had an internship with C Concept
Design in spring 2010, and Justin Mast ’04 will be an intern with the firm this summer.
Vander Borgh has enjoyed the opportunity to work with Hope and be a part of the college’s future, all while
“I was there the first year when De Pree opened,” he said. “It’s
nice to be part of the second-generation addition to De Pree.”
Donald Battjes notes that while family connections prompted his initial look
at Hope, it’s his own professional experience that has kept him involved. “Hope was a terrific, nurturing, institution which gave me
the personal encouragement in the liberal arts,” he said.
As much as he enjoyed his time on campus, he found going abroad no less significant.
After his third year, and prepared with French he learned at Hope, Battjes attended the Ecoles des Beaux Arts in Fontainebleau,
France to study architecture and sculpture with Master Class instructors from Europe.
The experience was transformational. He and other architecture students were
tasked with designing a center for puppetry, and the art form captured his imagination. Back at Hope, he developed a marionette production
as his senior project, and after graduation he founded Donald Battjes Puppets, presenting programs throughout the Midwest.
His interests in the fine arts and architecture combined in 1975, when he was
hired by the National Endowment for the Arts to restore and reactivate the 1900-era
Calumet Opera house in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
He subsequently moved to California, where he first worked in architectural planning
with Crocker Bank and subsequently in senior positions in corporate facilities and real estate administration with 20th Century
Fox and Hughes Aircraft. Along the way, he retained his interest in puppetry, and in 1988 acquired the Bob Baker Marionettes, the nation’s
longestrunning marionette theatre, refurbishing the theatre and expanding its manufacturing facility—expanding and developing
contracts with Disney and Warner Bros. before selling the company back to its previous owner.
He joined LACMA in 1997. In his 14 years with the organization, the museum engaged
in major renovations and added two gallery buildings, for a total of eight on its 24-acre campus. “It was the perfect
culmination of all my skills. It was great, and I loved it,” he said.
Directly familiar with what it takes to build and run a first-rate art museum
and having led projects involving international teams such as Hope’s, Battjes is providing an indispensable service to Hope as a consultant.
In turn, he notes that he appreciates the opportunity to apply a lifetime of experience on behalf of his alma mater.
Even as they are themselves working to make the art museum
a reality, VanderBorgh and Battjes both emphasize the vital role played
by the Kruizengas, whose support has included not only lead funding for
the building, but endowments for the exhibition program and a curator,
all of which not only make the museum possible but will enhance its role
as a teaching resource.
This article, written by Greg Olgers '87, was
originally featured in the April 2011 issue of News from Hope College.
More about the college’s Permanent Collection and ways that the
Kruizenga Art Museum will enhance Hope’s academic program
can be found in A Place
to Shine which was included in the June 2010
issue of News from Hope College.