By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
Museo de las Americas celebrated its annual fundraising event Noche de Museo earlier this month with great food, drinks & entertainment and people. More than 200 supporters came out to enjoy the success of Museo. (See photo gallery below)
But it has not been an easy road for the organization and it is only through the dedication of its founders, directors, trustees and supporters that Museo de las Americas has preserved for more than three decades.
The recent pandemic only served to threatened to derail years of intensely hard work. “There was a lot of uncertainty about how to move forward and that was definitely one of the hardest things for us,” said Claudia Moran, Executive Director for Museo. “We had to do most of our programming virtually and Museo’s staff had to make an effort to learn how to be innovative so we could stay connected to our audience, Moran told Latin Life Denver Media. Moran said it was thanks to various grants Museo was able to retain all of its employees but it was a very challenging time.
It all started back in 1991. The Art World was not welcoming to communities of color, including Latinos in Denver. Fed up with being marginalized, a group of passionate Denver artists including Jose Aguayo, Magdalena Aguayo, Ramon Kelley, Ramona Kelley, Emanuel Martinez, Maria Lupita Martinez and Rebecca Arellano teamed up to found Museo de las Americas, a space that would celebrate and honor Latino art and culture with exhibits that showcased our community’s tremendous creative talent. Jose Aguayo became Museo’s first Executive Director in 1991 and served through 2001.
In 1994, Museo purchased 861 Santa Fe Drive, creating a home for decades of Latino art and culture to come. Six years later, Museo received an extensive collection of Latin American Folk Art donated by Irving G. and Eleanor D. Tragen, which would become the seed of its collection which would grow to include over 4,000 items. A $10 million expansion plan included building safe collection storage in Museo’s basement, and constructing a research library with over 1,000 books on Latin American Art, History and Culture.
In 2003 Patty Ortiz became Museo’s second director. Ortiz was former Director of Programs for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. Museo received the Mayor’s Design Award for improvements to the facade and exhibition space, as well as the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, which recognizes the exemplary services and achievements that have positively impacted Denver in the spirit of the teachings and example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
2009 saw Maruca Salazar became the third Executive Director of Museo. Under her leadership, Museo received multiple awards and recognition’s, including substantial funding to expand engagement with our community. Maruca launched the first Summer Arts + Culture Camp, a life-affirming annual summer program that strengthens youths’ connections to their culture and heritage.
Today, Museo de las Americas continues to be in good hands under the leadership of Claudia Moran. Moran became Museo’s fourth Executive Director in 2017 and ushered in many “firsts,” including our first STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) exhibition and our first contemporary latinx exhibition. In 2020 and 2021, the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit cultural institutions especially hard. Despite significant challenges, Museo made it through.
As for the future, Moran said, “The future looks bright for Museo! We just celebrated our Annual Celebration, Noche de Museo, had a wonderful turnout of attendees and were able to raise crucial funds to keep offering our programming and exhibits. We have been working hard to offer thought-provoking programming and exhibits that uplifts Latin American art and culture. Community was eager to come back to Museo in person for our events, exhibits and programs.”
Museo de las Americas mission continues to be to dedicated to educating community through collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the diverse arts and cultures of the Americas, from ancient to contemporary, through innovative exhibitions and programming.
MUSEO DE LAS AMERICAS: 861 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204
HOURS OF OPERATION
Tuesday-Friday: 12 PM to 6:00 PM
Saturday 12 PM to 5:00 PM
Sunday & Monday: Closed
Photos by: Marco Briones