In 2010 the Center for the Future of Museums produced a report “Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums” which examined the demographic trends in the U.S. and how to represent Latinos in the museums and encourage them to visit the museums.1 Museum professionals realize that they need to find creative ways to engage these populations in order to maintain their cultural relevancy. Museums must include the stories of minorities into their framework, exhibits, and programs in order to tap into the cultural diversity in their neighborhoods and be active cultural institutions.
In July 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates that 54 million Hispanics are living in the United States, which is 17% of the U.S. total population. By 2060, the Hispanic population is expected to be 128.8 million which will make up 31% of the US population. Museums have to make sure they involve the Latino population in their communities in order to maintain their cultural relevancy and be vibrant institutions. According to the US Census Bureau, Denver County has a 30.9% Hispanic population.2 The city of Denver has one of the highest Hispanic populations in the US.
One museum that is making great strides in engaging the Latino community in their museum is the Denver Art Museum. The Denver Art Museum is encouraging Hispanics to attend the museum by providing free education and art programs for Latino families. The Denver Art Museum’s mission is “to enrich the lives of present and future generations through the acquisition, presentation, and preservation of works of art…” They created art programs to meet the needs of their diverse populations through education and exhibit programs that are accessible to their diverse museum visitors. Their CelebrARTE programs focus on engaging the Latino population in the museum.
CelebrARTE is a family program at the Denver Art Museum that began during the celebration of Fiestas Patrias, Mexico’s Independence Day, September 16th 2012. Madalena Salazar is Denver Art Museum’s Latino cultural programs coordinator, established CelebrARTE in 2012. “CelebrARTE highlights the rich heritage, arts, and cultures of Latinos throughout the world.” CelebrARTE is a free program that occurs every first Saturday of every month. It involves family programs, exhibits dedicated to Spanish culture, and curator talks and their activities throughout the museum. All of the programs are bilingual which allows families from different backgrounds to have access to the museum.
The Inclusium blog on inclusive museums interviewed Madalena Salazar about the program. Salazar states “our Latino patrons have told us time and again that we will be most successful when we can provide bilingual activities that are enjoyable for all of their family members.”3
The current CelebrARTE program Cuentos del Arte, for March 2015 is a storytelling event in which families can listen to master art curators tell the stories of the objects in Spanish and English. Leyendas was a CelebrARTE program last October at the museum. Leyendas are stories that mix facts with fantasy to teach us about our history, culture, and traditions. Visiting artist, Sr. Oscar Becerra Mora, from Mexico City led the program at the museum. It also involved the collaborative effort of the Mexican Cultural Center of Denver and the Museo de Arte Popular (Mexico City). A goal of the CelebrARTE museum is to connect Latino families to art and projects by Hispanic artists.4
Other celebrARTE programs include festivals, special exhibit talks, creative art projects, and even a Mardi gras carnival. Salazar states in Inclusium that “our Latino patrons have told us time and again that we will be most successful when we can provide bilingual activities that are enjoyable for all of their family members.”5
The Denver Art Museum’s goal is to create programs and exhibits that are accessible to the Latino population. However, I believe the Denver Art Museum could expand the purpose of the CelebrARTE to allow people in the community a safe space to talk about issues of immigration, assimilation, and cultural differences. Art is a window for these discussions but museums have to create dialogue programs to encourage these discussions. The museum could also encourage their Latino visitors to comment on what they like about the program as well as include more information about their programs in Spanish on their website.
The museum is working on a variety of ways to make the art and their programs accessible to the Latino community. Salazer explained that some of their challenges was making sure the museum staff also represented the museum’s goals of diversity by hiring more Hispanic museum professionals besides volunteers. The Denver Art Museum is striving to find other ways to make the museum more accessible to Latinos and other minorities in their community. Their CelebrARTE and free general admissions for kids are model programs for other museums facing challenges of cultural relevancy.
1. Betty Farrell, Ph.D. 2010. Center for the Future of Museums. “Demographic Transformation and the Future of Museums.” The AAM Press. http://www.aam-us.org/docs/center-for-the-future-of-museums/demotransaam2010.pdf?sfvrsn=0 .
2. “US Census Bureau State & County Quick Facts: Denver Colorado.”http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/08/08031.html
3. Denver Art Museum. 2012. ¡Viva CelebrARTE Every Third Sunday at the DAM! http://denverartmuseum.org/article/staff-blogs/viva-celebrarte-every-third-sunday-dam
4. Denver Art Museum. 2015. “CelebrARTE on Free First Saturdays.” http://denverartmuseum.org/calendar/celebrarte-free-first-saturdays.
5. Madalena Salazar. 13 March 2013. Incluseum. “Engaging Latino Audiences at the Denver Art Museum: My First Year as the Latino Cultural Programs Coordinator.” Http://Incluseum.Com/2013/03/13/Engaging-Latino-Audiences-At-The-Denver-Art-Museum-My-First-Year-As-The-Latino-Cultural-Programs-Coordinator