Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Blanton Museum expands Latino art representation with first curator of Latino art

Roberto Ramirez
Associate Latino art curator Claudia Zapata describes the process behind a Latino photographers work at the Blanton Art Museum on Oct. 4, 2023.

Claudia Zapata said they grew up surrounded by a large Latino arts community in Central Texas. Decades later, Zapata is bringing their expertise to the Blanton Museum of Art as its first associate curator of Latino art.

Zapata, a University alumni, previously served as a curatorial assistant for Latinx art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and was a fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles. Zapata’s first gallery, “Unbreakable,” is on display at the Blanton Museum until Dec. 3, 2023.

The exhibit, composed of pieces from the recently acquired Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia collection, explores the ways in which women and gender-nonconforming individuals navigate societal boundaries, “advocating the belief that a feminist future is possible,” according to the Blanton website.

Zapata said they were drawn to the Blanton Museum because of the extensive collection, which includes over 5,000 pieces of artwork.

“Several other museums are trying to engage with the new Latino art initiative, but they’re starting from scratch,” Zapata said. “This particular position already had this large donation to start working with immediately.”

Director Simone Wicha said the collection acquisition and new Latino art curator position are part of a museum-wide initiative to increase Latino representation.

“Latino artists are an important part of the story of American art,” Wicha said. “They’re a really important part of the story of Latin American art. They could be long-standing families who have been in the U.S. for many generations, as we have in Texas, or they can also be people who came from more recent immigration.”

The Blanton received a $500,000 Advancing Latinx Art in Museums grant in February.  The grant was a collaboration between the Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation and Terra Foundation for American Art.

“It’s a big honor for us to receive this and have been selected,” Wicha said. “We were the only museum in the state of Texas that received this (grant) and that combined with an investment from the university allowed the Blanton (Museum) to hire (Zapata).”

Wicha said Zapata brings experience and understanding of the collection to the Blanton team.

“I especially love that (Zapata) is deeply committed to the field and really wants to make sure that the Blanton is a leader in this but also that the histories of Chicano and Latino artists are represented and celebrated, which is our goal,” Wicha said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated The Blanton received a $5,000 grant, however, that number has been corrected to $500,000. The Texan regrets this error. 

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