Balboa Island Museum Named Best in OC

Balboa Island Museum Chairman of the Board and Co-Founder Shirley Pepys with a bust of Ronald Reagan at one of the exhibits inside the museum

By Pete Weitzner | NB Indy Special

“How can we be in the same league as a major museum?” asked Board Chair and Balboa Island Museum co-founder Shirley Pepys. “I am grateful to our community, to everyone who travels to visit.”

Pepys was referring to the Balboa Island Museum Newport Beach being named the best museum in Orange County in a 2022 LA Times readership survey.

Consider some of the competitors: Bowers Museum, Discovery Cube Orange County, and Orange County Museum of Art.

Readers named the Balboa Island Museum a “Best of Southland 2022” and a finalist in the Family Attraction category for all of Southland.

“It’s entertainment and culture,” Pepys said. “Dinners to entertain locals, lectures that attract visitors throughout the county, scavenger hunts for visitors’ children, and history for their parents.”

In August, the Museum welcomed 200,000 visitors to its new location at 210 Marine Avenue.

“Our members and the community are so passionate about this place,” said General Manager Tiffany Pepys Hoey.

One reason for this passion is the museum’s commitment to local veterans.

On November 12, the Balboa Island Museum will sponsor the annual Veterans Day BBQ at Balboa Park. It also hosts a special pinning ceremony on March 29.

“This institution does so much for veterans,” said Bill Stewart. Stewart leads the Veterans Project and chairs the Memorial Day BBQ.

The selection as an OC favorite comes roughly on the museum’s 22nd anniversary and the fourth anniversary of its new and historic 2,200 square foot home.

Museum Booster Club: President Pepys, Philanthropist Argyros, Supervisor Katrina, Citizen of the Year Beek and Board Member Dennis Bress at the first annual Fun Zone festival last fall

Strategic movement

Climbing to the top of Orange County’s museums — there are more than 40 — wasn’t easy. This museum was once a one-room collection above Island Market on South Bay Front.

That rise was accelerated in 2018, when Pepys took the “leap of faith” gamble to move into the former “Art for the Soul” building at 210 Marine Avenue, built in 1927 by the Richardson family.

“When we moved to the new location, I thought oh my God, this is so big,” former president Sharon Lambert said. “And then I had my moment, I walked out and saw oh, the walkway goes straight to the museum, and I thought if anyone could do something like that, it was Shirley. C is very rewarding.

Exterior of Balboa Island Museum / Courtesy of Balboa Island Museum

Pepys still thanks the late Jack Northrup, then Treasurer, who convinced the Board of Trustees to join us, and the George and Julia Argyros Family Foundation, whose grant secured the new lease.

The move tripled the Museum’s space, resulting in more exhibits and community events.

The museum is still adding: sold-out art classes this summer by local artist Eve Nycz, new exhibits on AirCal and Catalina Island, and the children’s section’s Paddington Bear exhibit coinciding with the Queen’s Jubilee.

Fall brings a members-only event on October 7th at Erin and Jim Maloney’s “Speakeasy” on Garnet Avenue and will be capped off with the second annual Fun Zone festival on November 4th. The historic Balboa Fun Zone is now owned and operated by the Newport Beach-based Pyle family.

“The biggest fundraiser of the year,” Pepys Hoey said of the Fun Zone event. The local band Reflex returns. More than 300 guests attended last year, experiencing “you can be a kid again.”

Art for the Soul: Museum launched sold-out art classes this summer

Beek completes the hat-trick of the Museum-Awards

Balboa Museum Vice President David Beek has been named Newport Beach’s 2022 Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce.

“Very humbled and very unexpected. Remember it takes a team,” Beek said in an email to museum members. In 2020, Commodore Beek arranged for Balboa Island Yacht Club to host the premiere of the museum’s first film, ‘The Golden Age of Newport Harbour’.

Visit the Balboa Island Museum in Newport Beach. Open daily, general admission free. Visit for more information and to become a member.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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