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San Antonio museum hires first specialized curator for Latinx art
There is no shortage of Latinx art in San Antonio, just by virtue of who is creating and shepherding art around town. Despite its prevalence, not every arts institution has an overseer specifically for works of Latin provenance. It can be a little disorganized tracking what is and isn't represented.
This October, the McNay Art Museum — one of San Antonio's leading art spaces — changed that, inaugurating Mia Lopez as its first curator of Latinx art. The position is funded at least through 2028 by the Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative; The McNay is the only Texas museum to receive it.
Although there's a time and place for art objects with a long history and bygone creators, Lopez specializes in working with living artists, and is taking on "a particular focus on acquisitions and programming," according to a news release. Her new position will connect her with other curators cross-departmentally to ensure that Latinx artists are not relegated to a single role at the McNay.
“We envision the McNay as San Antonio’s place of belonging,” said McNay director Matthew McLendon. “Mia, and this new role, will go a long way toward making this vision a tangible reality that our visitors will experience and will help us advance our mission to engage a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts.”
Lopez brings to the role a wealth of experience from other American cities. Most of her expertise comes from Chicago and Minneapolis, where she earned multiple graduate degrees and worked on similar Latinx-specific museum projects. She did start her career, however, with a bachelor's degree in Art History from Rice University in Houston. She has also curated at least one exhibition in Mexico: "The Backroom" at Museo Tamayo, which is available online.
In addition to her schooling and work experience, Lopez has expanded her expertise in mentorship programs such the Association of Art Museum Curators Mentorship Program (2020-21) and the Smithsonian Institution Latino Museum Studies Program (2012), among others.
“I am passionate about storytelling through art and amplifying the work of artists and creatives,” said Lopez in the release. “I look forward to developing exhibitions and expanding experiences that celebrate not only the McNay’s growing collection of art but the importance of Latinx culture to the San Antonio community and beyond.”
In the announcement by LAM, the group that funded the grant, president of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker said, “If we want the arts in this country to stay vibrant, moving and transformational, it’s imperative that these institutions bring in more diverse perspectives and lived experiences. Leadership in Arts Museums' vision is to grow and invest in diverse leadership at U.S. art museums to ensure their excellence and relevance in the future.”
More information about the McNay and its current exhibitions is available at mcnayart.org.