This Cinco de Mayo weekend, a new permanent pop-up museum called the Latino Arts Project opens in the Design District. The latest venture from entrepreneur and civic leader Jorge Baldor is a sort of next-generation, non-collecting art museum focused on creating community experiences around celebrating the arts and cultures of Central and South America. It’s a strategic initiative of the Latino Center for Leadership Development, which Baldor also founded. He hopes that the museum will bring recognition to the deep roots of Latino art–and encourage cross-cultural communication in the process.
“When we sponsored the DMA exhibit, Mexico … I think we were able to really see there how art and culture bring people together in a way that, maybe in more difficult circumstances, they can’t discuss the topics that need to be talked about. But finding that commonality, finding something that with someone else that you can share, I think opens the way to have discourse into bigger subjects,” says Baldor.
The inaugural exhibition, Mexican Modern Sculpture: A Study of the Artists comes from its debut at the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo in Mexico City. Latino Arts Project is the only venue in the United States to host the show, which includes nearly 100 artworks by prominent Mexican artists from the ’30s and ‘40s. The group of nine artists—peers of Rivera and Kahlo—represent five different regions of Mexico.
“I think we wanted to make sure we started with something that was meaningful and something that was large,” says Baldor. “We wanted something that could be a variety of different aspects of the history and the culture of Mexico, and to have something that could be by region so that people from Mexico from those regions could walk in and say, ‘Here’s the pride that I have in what was going on in the region that I’m from, 50, 70, 80 years ago.’”
In addition to artwork, the exhibit includes multimedia elements like photos and videos of the artists at work, examples of traditional clothing from the regions, and Mexican music from the period. It’s a bit more interactive than your traditional museum experience, which is an effort to be more impactful for visitors.
“As with all the projects that we’ve done, this is a continuation of our focus on education. And education really is at the soul of what we’re doing. Our first hire was our Director of Education from the Kimbell Museum, who had also been at the Crow Museum,” says Baldor.
The first exhibition will have an extended run through September while the museum focuses on its summer curriculum and preparing educational programming for the new school year. Other than creating learning experiences outside of the classroom, the Latino Arts Project will also have engaging community programs for “students” of all ages, like a speaker series called Art Voices. The first installment will discuss the connections between the art in the exhibition and the Art Deco architecture of Fair Park.
The museum is also working on getting local businesses to sponsor family days with free admission. The goal is to have every Sunday free for Dallasites to enjoy. Accessibility is a cornerstone of the Latino Arts Project’s mission. That’s why it’s in a easy-to-park-in neighborhood and not the Arts District.
“When you walk in, you have that beautiful museum experience, but getting families there or going out on dates, finding a new place to go, it’s just super accessible and more of a fun space. More of a nex gen version of what a museum experience would be,” says Baldor.
The Latino Arts Project is having free admission this weekend to celebrate its opening (general admission will normally be $12, $6 for military and students with ID, and free for children under 14). The opening is on Sunday, May 5 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m.
The fact that it’s opening on Cinco de Mayo may seem strange to anyone who knows that the holiday isn’t actually celebrated in Mexico, but, for Baldor, it seemed like the perfect way to bring together Latin and American cultures.
“Cinco de Mayo it really is, symbolically, a day to celebrate a victory. So sometimes you take the small victories and you grasp that because, like in today’s environment, today’s political climate, if you’re waiting for that big victory, you’re going to wait a long time,” he says. “When you have things like this museum opening that creates a small victory for the community, that we can find something positive that we can talk about, that we can share with the community–I think it speaks a lot. And I think that’s why Cinco de Mayo is an opportunity to open that door.”