McNay Art Museum Appoints Mia Lopez Inaugural Curator of Latinx Art

by Jessica Fuentes October 17, 2023

The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio has appointed Mia Lopez as its inaugural curator of Latinx Art, a role she began on Monday, October 2. The position is part of the Leadership in Art Museums (LAM) initiative, which was launched earlier this year to support museums’ efforts to address racial equity within staff positions, particularly in leadership roles. LAM is funded by the Alice L. Walton Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and Pilot House Philanthropy.

A headshot of curator and arts administrator Mia Lopez.

Mia Lopez. Photo by Paul Feuerbacher, courtesy of the McNay Art Museum.

In a press release, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, explained, “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.”

The McNay was one of 19 museums across the country to receive funding from LAM. In the original announcement of the development of the new curatorial position, the museum noted that the curator will grow its collection of artworks by Latinx artists and organize exhibitions featuring works by artists of Hispanic and Latinx descent. 

Since the Mellon Foundation’s launch of a museum staff demographics study in 2015, and the subsequent follow-up studies in 2018 and 2022, many museums across the U.S. have become more aware of the wide gap in racial equity among staff. Though some improvements have been made since the original study, it is clear that while people of color make up approximately half of museum employees working in building operations, in 2022, in fields such as collections, communications, administration, and public engagement, people of color only accounted for 23 to 33 percent of employees. In response to this data, institutions are establishing new positions to support the hiring of more diverse staff. Another recent example is the Blanton Museum of Art’s hiring of Dr. Claudia Zapata as its first Associate Curator of Latino Art, a position that is also funded through an initiative backed by the Ford Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Matthew McLendon, director of the McNay, remarked, “We envision the McNay as San Antonio’s place of belonging. 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.”

Ms. Lopez has served as an independent curator and arts administrator for more than eight years. During this time, she worked on an array of exhibitions, site-specific projects, programs, and publications with organizations, including Presa House Gallery in San Antonio, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago. Previously, she held curatorial positions with the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Born in San Antonio, Ms. Lopez also had some of her earliest experiences as an arts administrator at the city’s Blue Star Contemporary Art Center and Museo Alameda.

Recent exhibitions curated by Ms. Lopez include the forthcoming online show The Backroom at Museo Tamayo (Mexico City/Online, 2023) and LatinXAmerican (2021) and Remember Where You Are (2019-2020) at the DePaul Art Museum. Ms. Lopez holds an MA in Contemporary and Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism and an MA in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA in Art History from Rice University. During her time at Rice, Ms. Lopez held curatorial internships at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Rice Gallery.

Ms. Lopez said of her new role, “I am passionate about storytelling through art and amplifying the work of artists and creatives. 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.”

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