Earlier this year the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin launched an initiative focused on expanding its commitment to Latino art. As part of the initiative, it developed a new position, Associate Curator of Latino Art, which is funded through a $500,000 grant from Advancing Latinx Art in Museums, backed by the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The Blanton has announced the appointment of Dr. Claudia Zapata to the new curatorial role. Mx. Zapata holds a BA and MA in art history from the University of Texas at Austin and earned their Ph.D. in art history from Southern Methodist University’s RASC/a: Rhetorics of Art, Space, and Culture program. Their dissertation was titled Chicano Art is Not Dead: The Politics of Curating Chicano Art in Major U.S. Exhibitions, 2008-2012. Mx. Zapata has published widely in scholarly journals and also contributed an essay to the catalog for the exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now, which was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and was on view last year in Fort Worth at The Amon Carter Museum of American Art.
Mx. Zapata is currently the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Departments of Art History and Chicana/o and Central American Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. From 2018 through 2022, they served as Curatorial Assistant for Latinx Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in support of ¡Printing the Revolution!. Mx. Zapata has also worked as an independent curator and consultant for over a decade. From 2010 to 2014, Mx. Zapata served as the first Curator of Exhibitions and Programs at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin.
In a press release, Simone Wicha, Director of the Blanton, remarked, “Claudia brings diverse knowledge of Latino and Chicano art to this position, bolstered by their studies of modern and contemporary Latin American art and ancient Mesoamerican art, fields that the Blanton and UT have respectively pioneered. As a scholar, museum professional, artist, and Texan, Claudia has long advocated for the recognition of Chicano and Latino art in Texas and U.S. art, and I am confident that they will advance the Blanton’s steadfast commitment to representing and amplifying this important area of American art.”
Vanessa Davidson, curator of Latin American art, added, “The histories of Chicano and Latino art have deep roots in works on paper, which Claudia has extensively studied and researched — not only examining artists and collaboratives working in the medium, but also coming to know the printers themselves. This is enhanced by their vast knowledge of the larger field and expansive studies of the strategies by which these artworks have historically been presented in museum and gallery contexts, as well as in artist-run spaces. Their outstanding scholarship, combined with their passion for advancing this field through research and curatorial work, will be instrumental at the Blanton.”
In their role at the Blanton, Mx. Zapata will inventory, research, catalog, and digitize the more than 5,000 works recently gifted to and purchased by the museum from the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection. Ultimately, this work will culminate with a publication about the collection. Additionally, Mx. Zapata will oversee the collection rotations in the museum’s newly opened Latino art galleries. They will work closely with Ms. Davidson and will collaborate with all of the curatorial areas of the museum as well as with UT faculty, with the goal of advancing Latino studies throughout the campus and beyond the walls of the institution.
Mx. Zapata said, “Undoubtedly, the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection gift to the Blanton is one of the most historic events in Latino art. I am honored to join the Blanton curatorial team to guide the advancement of Latino art’s study and presentation using this expansive and comprehensive collection. The Blanton is leading the charge for museums with their new permanent Latino art galleries, demanding space for this significant contribution to American art. We aim to make this institution the preeminent site for Latino art study and appreciation, serving local to international communities.”
Mx. Zapata will officially step into the role of Associate Curator of Latino Art at the Blanton in July.