Mexic-Arte is a nonprofit, multidisciplinary, and multicultural museum founded in Austin in 1984 by artists Sylvia Orozco, Pio Pulido, and Sam Coronado. It was initially devoted to promoting an appreciation of Latin-American art of every medium but broadened its scope to celebrate the contributions of many cultures. The museum presents eighty events annually, including art exhibitions, poetry readings, theatrical, musical, and dance performances, and performance art. Before establishing Mexic-Arte, Coronado had supervised a nonprofit arts organization in Houston, and Pulido and Orozco had cofounded an art research and information center in Mexico City. Orozco was also a member of the network Mujeres Artistas del Suroeste. Mexic-Arte sponsored Coronado as an artist for a year, after which he left. From 1984 to 1988 Mexic-Arte operated in a 300-square-foot space in the Arts Warehouse on San Antonio Street. Due to cramped quarters, the museum frequently sponsored exhibitions at other locations during this period. Since 1988 the museum has been located in downtown Austin on Congress Avenue, in a 24,000 square-foot facility that includes three galleries, a dance studio, a performance area, a theater, and a shop.
Mexic-Arte sponsors twenty art exhibitions annually, including ceremonies of art, music, food, and parades centered around traditional Mexican holidays. The museum's Dia de los Muertos festival, one of the largest in the nation, features a parade of lowriders and a month-long exhibition of contemporary and traditional altars. Since 1985 Mexic-Arte has organized the Austin Annual, a large competitive art exhibition that attracts submissions from throughout the state. The museum has also organized a number of critically acclaimed invitational exhibitions that present an in-depth sampling of work by small groups of Texan and Mexican artists. A number of exhibitions address such social issues as homelessness.
Mexic-Arte presents a wide range of musical and theatrical productions. Traditional offerings have included the Mexican Christmas pageant Los Pastores, performed by members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Antonio, and music by Mariachi Estrella, Austin's oldest and largest mariachi group. Folk programs are counterbalanced by evenings of alternative music by such experimental groups as Liquid Mice, Pocket Fishermen, Soviet France, and many others. Mexic-Arte has also hosted avant-garde performances, films, and videos by such groups as Alma Theater and Film Collective, the Austin Film Society, and Vortex Repertory Company. The museum regularly schedules readings and occasionally organizes literary occasions such as International Texas Poetry (1988), a two-day event that featured five poets from Texas, Peru, and Sweden.
Perhaps Mexic-Arte's greatest contribution to Texas is its ongoing sponsorship of interdisciplinary art events. In 1987 the museum sponsored an international performance-arts festival, and the following year hosted 64 Beds, an art and dance collaboration organized by Sally Jacques that raised $10,000 for the homeless. Mexic-Arte has combated the elitism frequently associated with conceptual art by organizing exhibitions such as The Bus Stops Here (1989), a project that invited people using the buses that stop in front of the museum to interact with art installations, videos, games, and performance art.
Mexic-Arte draws on a number of sources to finance its ambitious program schedule. The National Endowment for the Arts contributes grants in five disciplines. The museum also receives funds from the National Association of Artists' Organizations, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the city of Austin, various corporations and private foundations, and membership fees. Mexic-Arte's bookstore and gift shop and a yearly art auction also contribute to the center's annual budget, which grew from $5,000 in 1984 to $200,000 in 1991.
In addition to hosting exhibitions and performances, Mexic-Arte regularly schedules workshops for Austin schoolteachers interested in including Latin-American arts traditions in their curriculum. From 1988 to 1990 the museum sponsored "Arte Para Todos/Art for Everyone," a bilingual television program on Austin Community television. Mexic-Arte further serves the community by offering space for dancing and Spanish classes. The museum has begun developing a permanent collection that includes historic photographs and archival material on Austin Mexican Americans, pre-Columbian art, Mexican graphics, including work by artists such as José Guadalupe Posada and examples from the printmakers' collective Taller de la Grafica Popular, and photographs of Mexican and Indian subjects. Since 1989 Mexic-Arte has taken on a national profile as one of two regional representatives for the New Forms Regional Initiative Grants, a program sponsored by the National Association of Artists' Organizations. Together with Houston's DiverseWorks, Mexic-Arte awards NFRIG grants to Southwestern artists working in a variety of disciplines. Mexic-Arte sponsored the International Conference for the National Association of Artists' Organizations in 1992.