May 3, 2010

National Museum of the American Latino Commission Holds Successful Public Outreach Session in Austin

Community input from weekend session to be incorporated in Commission’s Report to Congress

Washington, DC – This past Saturday, May 1st the National Museum of the American Latino Commission (NMALC) held its third in a series of six national forums at the Texas State Capitol building in Austin, where approximately 100 interested local residents interacted with national commission members and local panelists.

The NMALC was appointed by the President of the United States and bi-partisan Congressional leaders and is tasked to provide a report on the creation of a potential National Museum of the American Latino in Washington, D.C. The Commission is gathering input from the general public over the next several months, which will be included in its final report to Congress slated for September 2010. Austin was chosen as the site for this listening tour because of its strong arts and cultural tradition and its symbolic importance as the capital of a state with one of the largest and fastest growing Latino populations in the United States.

“As a native Texan I was thrilled by the warm hospitality extended to us by the people of Austin and the Commission was very encouraged by the comments and opinions from the local panelists and public in attendance,” stated Commission Chair Henry Muñoz. “This is the kind of valuable input we are looking to receive as we prepare our report to Congress.”

The forum kicked off with a lively dance by the Folklorico Dancers from Milam County on the steps of the State Capitol and Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade gave some uplifting opening remarks that set the tone for the session. In attendance at the event were prominent leaders from the arts, civic and business communities in Austin. At a special reception the night before, U.S. Representatives Lloyd Doggett and John Carter also gave remarks.

The forum consisted of a panel of six local leaders interfacing with six Commissioners who had traveled to Austin for the event, followed by a public question and answer session fielded by the Commissioners. The questions from the public ranged from thoughts on the development, design and collections for a potential museum, to the make-up of the Commission and the potential impact on regional Latino museums and cultural efforts and whether or not the museum should be located in Washington, D.C. vs. Austin.

NMALC Commission members in attendance included Chairman Henry R. Munoz, Raul Danny Vargas, Sean D. Reyes Dr. Emma Sepulveda and Cid Wilson.

The local panelists included: Dr. Martha Menchaca (Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin), Luis Patino (GM/VP of Univision Television Univision TV, KAKW 62), Ned Rifkin (Director of the Blanton Museum of Art), Brenda Sendejo (Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at UT Austin) Roberto Tejada (Associate Professor, Ph.D. Modern Mexican, Chicano, and Contemporary U.S. Latino Art) Sylvia Orozco (Executive Director, Mexi-Arte Museum)

A local Austin Welcoming Committee consisting of several prominent area leaders assisted the Commission. Welcoming Committee members (in addition to the panelists) included: Secretary of State, Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, City of Austin Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, Alicia Maldonado, Andy Martinez, Anna Sanchez, Bob Lander, Carol Thompson, Dr. Emilio Zamora, Dr. Fred Valdez, Jr., Garry Gibbs, James Aldrete, Jeff Hahn, Leo A. Ramirez, Jr., Liz Arreaga, Dr. Martha Menchaca, Maria Gabriela Madrid-Parra, Dr. Nora Comstock, Patty Gonzales, Pilar Sanchez, Robert Hicks Navarro, Roberto Tejada, Rudi R. Rodriguez, Sylvia Orozco, Vincent E. Kitch

In addition to its national forum series, the NMALC is also supported by a comprehensive website where interested parties can leave their comments on a possible museum and interact with other online visitors who want to get involved in the process.

The next stop on the NMALC public forum tour is Los Angeles, CA on May 22nd.

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