Claudia Zapata, shown from the shoulders up, set against a black background. They are wearing glasses, have dark hair, and are smiling.
Photo credit: Luis M. Garza.

Blanton Museum announces first associate curator of Latino art

Claudia Zapata is the first associate curator of Latino art, whose position was funded through a philanthropic effort to uplift Latino art across the country.


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The Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, has announced that Claudia Zapata will be its first associate curator of Latino Art. They will begin at the institution at the University of Texas in July.

Four charitable foundations, the Mellon, the Ford, the Getty, and the Terra, have partnered together to form an initiative named “Advancing Latinx Art in Museums” (ALAM), pledging to donate $5 million in grants.

The money will be awarded over 5 years, granting $500,000 to 10 U.S. museums or art institutions so they can create ten permanent curatorial positions focused on Latino art. Five of these positions will be promotions for existing curatorial staff, while the other five will be newly created positions.

After the five years, the Blanton Museum will seek to endow Zapata’s position.

“Being the first associate curator of Latino art has a weight to it that I don’t take lightly,” Zapata said to ARTnews. “This is the beginnings of this blueprint for the future. This doesn’t end with me—it begins with me, but there’s going to the next generation after.” 

“The mainstream trending of Latinx art may not last, that money may run out, but we’re still going to be doing this work,” they added.

Zapata is currently a chancellor's postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, and has a joint affiliation with the school's departments of art history, and Chicana/o and Central American Studies.

They have a history of work within the field of Latino art, their most recent position being that of curatorial assistant on the “¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now,” exhibition, curated by E. Carmen Ramos at Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., holding the position from 2018 to 2022.

From 2010-2014, Zapata served as Curator of Exhibitions and Programs for the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, Texas, leading the creation of exhibits centered on the artists Arturo García Bustos, José Guadalupe Posada, and Sam Coronado.

Zapata's position at the Blanton will involve the direction of the Latino art expansion initiative to inventory, research, catalog, and digitize the artworks that have recently been gifted and purchased from the Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia Collection, as well as produce a publication on their landmark gift that totals over 5,000 works.

They will oversee the rotation of displayed collections in the Blanton's recently opened galleries that are dedicated to Latino art, working closely with the Blanton's Latin American Art department and Vanessa Davidson, the curator of Latin American art at Blanton. 

Zapata will also collaborate with all curatorial areas of the museum, as well as university faculty to help advance Latino studies both on and off the campus.

“The histories of Chicano and Latino art have deep roots in works on paper, which Claudia has extensively studied and researched—not only examining artists and collaboratives working in the medium, but also coming to know the printers themselves,” added Vanessa Davidson, curator of Latin American art. 

“This is enhanced by their vast knowledge of the larger field and expansive studies of the strategies by which these artworks have historically been presented in museum and gallery contexts, as well as in artist-run spaces. Their outstanding scholarship, combined with their passion for advancing this field through research and curatorial work, will be instrumental at the Blanton,” she concluded.


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