artandculture chicago

National Museum of Mexican Art: Love Never Dies

Sunday, November 08, 2015 Jennie Velasco

Pilsen has been a central hub for the majority of Chicago's Mexican-American citizens.  At the heart of this cultured and graffiti clad neighborhood is the National Museum of Mexican Art.  It's existence for over 30 years has housed Mexican, Latino and Chicano art and on November 6th they held their first annual "Love Never Dies" gala.  The museum held Day of the Dead exhibits since early September.  Community involved celebrations had been held all week that included parades, face painting, ofrendas (altars), food. and over 12,000 people in attendance.

Tonight's banquet did not fall short of previous celebrations.  In between the commotion of guests and photographs, I had the privilege of getting a few moments with the museums founder Carlos Tortolero.  Carlos was festive in a tuxedo tailcoat with a top hat donning sugar skull makeup.  I referenced Pilsen being a poignant hispanic community and adamantly corrected me to this being a "Mexican" community.  Rightly said.

 How do you think this landmark in Pilsen has impacted this community?
There is a good deal of pride in this community.  More important events have happened in our community, in this building, than in any place in Chicago.  We host immigration meetings, education meetings, health issues, domestic violence global events.  This is the place.

What kind of programs to you have running this season?
1/3 of our budget goes to programs, primarily for kids and teenagers.  We do have programs for adults and we expand out to Little Village.

So you reach out to neighboring communities?
We do. Its important to us.  We are in the community cause we want to be, its our commitment to young people.  I always say it so many times, we wanted to put a museum here in this community and we would always hear that we couldn't do it.  They said we couldn't put a museum here, we can't do an art museum here, and we can't do free.  They were wrong.

Do you get a lot of good response from artists to participate here?
Yes we do.  Years ago when we had our 12th anniversary, we had artists that donate artwork.  We thought we would get 12-20 pieces, over 500 pieces were donated to the museum.  We have a local artists exhibition. So its important to us to represent local artists.

The remainder of the evening included face painting, delicious food sponsored by Herdez, scavenger hunts and one of a kind altars.  The guest speakers included Carlos Tortolero, Maria Cristina Guerrero, editor in chief of Siempre Mujer, Nicole Suarez of Hoy Noticias MundoFox, and the music of emmy-nominated Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquestra and DJ Jesse De La Pena of Vocalo Radio.  Certainly, it was hard to keep up with the amount of eye catching displays and tequila samples.  The evening was a genuine display of the heart of Pilsen adding much value to authenticity and culture.

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