In 1987, the NMMA opened its doors thanks to the vision and determination of Carlos Tortolero and fellow educators. Originally it was called the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum and from
and I know that I’m not Chicagoland’s only educator who considers the museum to be one of their greatest allies in the effort to increase cultural understanding. “Me gusta el color azul aquí. Me gusta los
it was conceived as a location that would not just house works of art, but also serve as a catalyst for social transformation.
To showcase the beauty and richness of Mexican culture by sponsoring events and presenting exhibitions that exemplify the majestic variety of visual and performing arts in the Mexican culture; to develop, conserve and preserve a significant permanent collection of Mexican art; to encourage the professional development of Mexican artists; and, to offer arts-education programs. The facility has provided much more than a showcase for my students and me. It has served as a launch pad for exploration of new space, and also has acted as my own spacewalk: a vehicle that allows me to invent, expand, become. The museum offers valuable opportunities for students to celebrate Mexican and Chicano/a contributions to the arts, and to dissolve ethnic bias. I have sent Spanish students from a small college in the predominantly White, western suburbs to explore Chicago’s mostly Mexican neighborhood in order to film their “Búsqueda de Tesoros” (“Scavenger Hunt”). I’ve had my students make their way in groups of four of five into a working class, Spanish-dominant neighborhood, and record their attempts to seek out images, objects, locations, and monuments, as well as to make certain requests in Spanish. I require them to begin their hunt at the National Museum of Mexican Art,
caballos. ” A student in the class’ final video project points to a swirl of color and explains in her halting, second-semester Spanish why she has chosen Alejandro Romero’s The Battle at Puebla/La Batalla de Puebla (1987) as her favorite painting from the permanent collection housed at the NMMA. The vivid colors and kinetic energy have drawn the eyes of my students for years. Once they leave the museum, they have an easy time of finding “El águila que devora la serpiente en el cielo,” since the City of Chicago has placed the Mexican flag’s emblem of the eagle devouring the serpent on many of the lampposts that line 18th Street, the commercial heart of the community. It is also easy to find a tortillería, and they generally encounter either a clump of painted nopales or a grocer’s fresh stock right away. They have a harder time locating and ordering champurrado, or the monument called “El Zocalito,” – the insider’s nickname for a monument that recalls Mexico’s grand counterpart in its prestigious capital – a trick question. The museum has provided them with a port of entry into a world that was previously unfamiliar and intimidating. By the time they have finished documenting and describing their favorite pieces in the permanent collection, they have taken their first step toward become participants in – rather than mere observers of – a hemispheric and inclusive Americas.
It has served as a launch pad for exploration of new space, and also has acted as my own spacewalk: a vehicle that allows me to invent, expand, become.
The museum has earned plenty of bragging rights over its twenty-five year trajectory. Home to one of the country’s CONTINUED ON PAGE 21
| Fall 2012 el AVISO
its inception, it was conceived as a location that would not just house works of art, but also serve as a catalyst for social transformation. From an organization that s 0 square-foot facility that defined Mexican cultural activity at the national level. The scope this transformation was articulated in 2006 with its new name, the National Museum of Mexican Art. The original mission of the museum, however, retains its integrity:
A Publication of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. Learn more at www.nalac.org