With COVID restrictions starting to lift statewide, Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center has joined the list of cultural/artistic/educational institutions opening their doors again to the public. And one of the first things the NHCC did was return to some unfinished business. Namely, a delayed anniversary celebration.
Last year—2020, appropriately enough—marked the 20th anniversary of the beloved Barelas institution dedicated to the preservation, promotion and advancement of “Hispanic, Chicana/o and Latinx” culture, arts and humanities. NHCC opened to much fanfare back in Y2K. But the pandemic shutdown also shut down plans to mark their platinum anniversary.
“While the museum was closed for the majority of the last year and our anniversary celebrations were cancelled, we were able to pivot a number of exhibitions into virtual formats and shift some of our programming online,” says Museum Curator Jadira Gurulé. “We missed being on site and seeing people and artwork in person, but this virtual shift also allowed us to present content to a broader audience, not limited by geography. People from around the world have been able to engage with our content over the last year from their homes, which is actually a pretty cool outcome of otherwise difficult circumstances.”
Now, with the NHCC again open to in-person visitors, its visual arts gallery is finally pulling back the curtain on Mira Mira On the Wall: Reflecting on 20 Years of NHCC Exhibitions. This exhibit, curated by Gurulé, recounts iconic highlights from exhibits presented over the last two decades. It examines the importance of the stories that have been told and celebrates the artists that have participated in shaping the identity of the museum over the years. The exhibition features artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, presenting them in a new light connected to “the larger framework of the museum’s historical trajectory and future vision.”
It’s tough enough running a museum burdened with representing an entire culture. Imagine boiling the last 20 years of that culture down to a handful of artworks. Gurulé admits that, “Trying to select less than 40 artworks to represent the exhibitions hosted in the NHCC Art Museum over the last 20 years was a challenge indeed, but also necessary for creating a socially distanced exhibition. There are so many important stories that have been told over the years, and the contributions of artists, staff members, volunteers and other collaborators cannot be overstated.”
An eye-catching crepe paper dress by Patssi Valdez, an old-fashioned New Mexican “death cart” wood carving by Patrocinio Barela, a satirical serigraph by Esther Hernández conflating advertising art and the plight of migrant workers, a traditional Catholic retablo from Joe Gabaldon, an evocative black and white photograph by Miguel Gandert of a Native American dance performance: These are just a sampling of the items on view at the Mira Mira exhibit.
Mira Mira On the Wall: Reflecting on 20 Years of NHCC Exhibitions opened Friday, May 14. The NHCC (1701 Fourth St. NW) is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10am to 4pm. Online ticket sales are available at my.nmculture.org/events. A limited number of timed tickets ($5 N.M. adult resident, $6 non-resident) are available each day. Guests must choose a time and date when they purchase tickets. All visitors are required to wear a mask.