Museums are keys to analyzing our past and understanding our present. Museums document and provide an enriching and educational look into culture. Few museums in the United States are dedicated to Latino culture and studies, yet those that do exist are rich with Latino cultural artifacts, art and are dedicated to educating their communities about their raízes. Gather your friends and family for Latinitas’ own museum walk.
Mexic-Arte — Austin, Texas
Mexic-Arte is Texas’ official Mexican and Mexican-American art museum, located on Congress Avenue in the heart of downtown Austin. Founded in 1983 by artists Sylvia Orozco, Pio Pulido and Sam Coronado, it gained non-profit status in 1984 and has been featuring exhibitions ever since. Mexic-Arte holds annual summer and fall exhibitions. Summer exhibitions feature a Latino artist under 35, and the Fall exhibition is Día de los Muertos-themed. Mexic-Arte is pan-Latino, meaning they feature artists from all Latino identities. They recently held an exhibit called “Masked: Changing Identities”.
“Mexic-Arte caters to a community that is underserved,” said Claudia Zapata, curator of exhibitions and programs. Education programming is a large part of the Mexic-Arte mission. Students learn how to screenprint and use other computer software. Mexic-Arte has helped foster other non-profit projects, such as The Serie Project. Mexic-Arte is an important asset to the Texas Latino population.
El Museo del Barrio — New York, New York
Located in New York’s Museum Mile, El Museo del Barrio has a history originating in the Civil Rights Movement of 1969. Founder Raphael Montañez Ortiz, an educator and activist, opened El Museo in response to African-American and Puerto Rican parents and activists concerned that their children weren’t receiving an education that acknowledged their heritage. Originally a museum primarily for Puerto Rican art, it is now open to showcasing and preserving all Latin American and Caribbean cultures. The museum recently exhibited the “Superreal: alternative realities in photography and video.”
El Museo prides itself on its community outreach, educating the community through bilingual programs, festivals, and its vast art collection. According to their website, part of their mission is to “enhance the sense of identity, self-esteem and self-knowledge of the Caribbean and Latin American peoples.
National Museum of Mexican Art — Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s largely Mexican-American Pilsen neighborhood is home to the National Museum of Mexican Art. The NMMA was founded in 1987 after Carlos Tortolero organized a group of educators who shared his vision of art, education and social justice. The NMMA boasts a large collection of works by Mexican artists from both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border. The NMMA has traveling exhibitions across the U.S. and Mexico, adhering to their philosophy of Mexican culture being sin fronteras.
With one of the largest art collections in the country, the museum’s education programs reach more than 60,000 K-12 students each year, according to their website. The NMMA also has acclaimed performing arts programs that highlight rich Mexican music, dance and theater. Admission to the museum is always free. They have hosted exhibits like artist Sergio Gomez’s collection “Puertas Abiertas/Open Doors.”
Museum of Latin American Art — Long Beach, California
Serving the Los Angeles area and located in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, the Museum of Latin American Art was founded in 1996 by Robert Gumbiner. “Our exhibitions focus on the diversity of modern (early 1900s) and contemporary art (present) in Latin America,” said Rebecca Horta, Associate Curator of Education. MOLAA features only Latin American art by artists with ties to a Latin American country.
MOLAA features a wide array of programs dealing with education, art, cooking, dance and a bilingual summer art camp. The museum hosts a free Annual Women’s Day Festival in March. This year’s festival happened March 10 and featured women artists, dancers and musicians. MOLAA features multiple exhibitions at a time and has its own magazine called the MOLAA Museum Magazine. They recently launched an exhibition entitled Loteria: An Interpretation of MOLAA’s Permanent Collection.
Currently, an effort by the Smithsonian is being made to open a national Latino museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Opening the museum is an uphill battle, but the Smithsonian has begun the Smithsonian Latino Center in an effort to develop a plan of action and to help with funding the project.