National Museum of Mexican Art Founder and President & CEO Carlos Tortolero to Retire

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - BusinessLocal legend, Carlos Tortolero, founder and president and CEO of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) will step down on December 31st, after more than 40 years of leadership, he announced earlier this week. Tortolero, previously a teacher, counselor and administrator at Chicago Public Schools, spearheaded the construction of NMMA, with its four galleries and dedicated performing arts space, saw its permanent collection grow to 20,000 pieces, created the Yollocalli Youth Arts Reach program, which won a White House, NEA, NEH, and IMLS Award for outstanding Youth Arts Programming. “What an amazing journey,” Tortolero said. “It’s been challenging, but it’s been fun. I always held that the Museum be located within Pilsen for greater community access and that admission must be free so everyone can enjoy it. From the beginning, there were roadblocks and naysayers. But look at us now! It’s truly been my honor to serve.”

Tortolero organized a group of fellow educators and founded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in 1982, which opened its doors in 1987. The goal was to establish an arts and cultural organization committed to accessibility, education and social justice. Under Tortolero’s leadership, the Museum leveraged its relationships, programs, activism and reach to forge innovative and significant collaborations with others. In 2006, the Museum’s name changed to the National Museum of Mexican Art. “We are deeply grateful to Carlos and acknowledge his remarkable legacy in transforming vision into reality with this treasured Museum,” said Carlos R. Cardenas, Chair, Board of Trustees, and Senior Vice President Group Manager, Wintrust Commercial Bank. “Everything he has done is based on showcasing the richness and beauty of Mexican art and culture, raising up artists and bringing light to issues affecting our neighbors and the world.

“Carlos Tortolero has ensured tremendous levels of impact, innovation, success, and representation. The NMMA is well positioned to continue to deliver on its mission of being a leader in advocacy for Mexican art, culture and community through its high-quality and relevant curatorial exhibits, arts programming, and award-winning Yollocalli youth arts initiative. NMMA is also at its best financial position in its history. We have Carlos Tortolero to thank for this strong foundation, which will allow the NMMA to flourish for generations to come,” Cardenas said.

Tortolero is a published author and has served on numerous boards and committees, including as Board Trustee at the University of Illinois, and he created the Mexican Cultural Alliance, a mentorship program with eight other Mexican arts organizations in the U.S. and Mexico. “It’s the vision and dedication of our excellent Trustees, the extraordinary dedication and creativity of our amazing staff and the incredible support of our visitors, supporters, and partners that have made the Museum what it is today,” Tortolero said. “I’m humbled to have had the chance to serve. Whoever takes the reins will be leading a hardworking and successful organization. I’m positive the new president will lead the Museum to more wonderful accomplishments.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

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