Maruca Salazar is stepping down, but not out of Museo de las America
When it comes to community service, few outrank Maruca Salazar. She served in Denver Public Schools as a teacher and art director for 30 years and she most recently held the position of Executive Director of Museo de las Americas, before announcing her retirement in September.
“In the 1980s there was no place for Latinos to exhibit, there was no place to appreciate the great tradition and cultures of the Americas,” Salazar said of what drew her interest in Museo de las Americas originally. “For me as an artist and a teacher it was a great moment and I wanted to be part of it somehow. The existence of this museum was crucial for the recognition and the validity that the Latino cultural aesthetic and expression was very important. It was something that we needed to celebrate in the state of Colorado.”
Salazar served as executive director for eight years at Museo de las Americas, but was also part of the museum’s aesthetic prior to becoming its executive director.
“I was invited as an artist to come and exhibit my work,” she said. “And to me that was a great honor. I always wanted to provide support for this institution, because I did believe in their mission and what they were trying to accomplish.”
Right after retiring from DPS in June 2009, Salazar succeeded Patty Ortiz in July 2009 as Executive Director at Museo de las Americas, where she was able to curate a variety of projects.
“I curated three exhibits each year, so I have curated over 30 exhibitions in the Museo and a couple more outside the Museo as an advisor,” she said. Salazar was an advisor to Denver Art Museum’s recent exhibit of Hispanic artists from around the globe, “Mi Tierra”.
“One of the most brilliant moments was ‘La Cocina,’ my favorite,” Salazar said of some of her curated exhibits as executive director. “‘Contacto 12’, which is the celebration for the quincentennial of the discovery of America with the Einar and Jamex de la Torre brothers. I had Chicano, that was one of my favorite exhibitions in 2013. Another one is ‘Outside in 303’ that was mentioned by Westword to be one of the best exhibits in 2013.”
Despite having some favorites, Salazar said that all the work she curated or saw come through Museo during her tenure as executive director had a message.
“The idea is not necessarily to highlight contemporary art, but to also highlight folk art; to also highlight graffiti and street art; and to also recognize the new talent that we have in Denver among the Latino and Chicano population in youth,” she said.
In fact, according to Salazar, highlighting young Latino and Chicano artists is something that Museo de las Americas does uniquely compared to its art museum counterparts.
“The Denver Art Museum is an institutional museum, it’s a museum that is sponsored by the city, by the citizens. It is a huge museum and a wonderful museum,” she said. “The last exhibit that [DAM] had of Latino art was 20 years ago. ‘Mi Tierra’ is an exhibit that happens after 20 years absence of any full showcasing of a group of Latino artists. So the role the Museo de las Americas plays is crucial.”
As for future plans, Salazar said she will continue to curate events at Museo de las Americas through 2018 and plans to spend time with her grandchildren; however, due to the nature the Museo plays in Latino art, she will continue to be a strong advocate of its cause.
“Museo has been in existence for 26 years, but it has not been an easy existence,” she said. “It has been a constant struggle searching for financial support, people participating and becoming members. If you value the cultural relevance of institutions of color, please support them. Become a member, be part of the events, participate, have a voice. If you don’t do that, institutions like Museo will vanish.”
To become a member or get more information regarding Museo de las Americas, visit www.museop.org.