National Museum of Mexican Art Founder and President & CEO Carlos Tortolero to Retire

CHICAGO, Nov. 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) announced today that President & CEO Carlos Tortolero will retire from the Museum he founded. Tortolero will step down as President & CEO on December 31, 2023, after more than 40 years of leadership.

Tortolero previously served as a teacher, counselor and administrator at Chicago Public Schools.

During his tenure, Tortolero directed the construction of the Museum, with its four galleries and dedicated performing arts space, saw its Permanent Collection grow to 20,000 pieces, created the Yollocalli Youth Arts Reach program, which won a White House, NEA, NEH, and IMLS Award for outstanding Youth Arts Programming, and established and grew the Museum’s endowment.

Tortolero said the Museum’s stability — its foundation, robust Board of Trustees and strong and long-tenured staff — make the time right for him to transition from the organization and pursue personal interests, including embracing a new role as a grandfather.

“What an amazing journey,” Tortolero said. “It’s been challenging, but it’s been fun. I always held that the Museum be located within Pilsen for greater community access and that admission must be free so everyone can enjoy it. From the beginning, there were roadblocks and naysayers. But look at us now! It’s truly been my honor to serve.”

Tortolero’s anticipated retirement was part of a succession plan developed by the Museum Board of Trustees to maintain strategic leadership continuity and ensure the Museum’s long-term success. The Board retained the firm of Koya Partners to assist them in finding a candidate for president who will advance the Museum’s mission, vision, and curatorial agenda, a visionary leader with a deep commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. Tortolero will serve in a consultative role until a new leader is in place.

“We are deeply grateful to Carlos and acknowledge his remarkable legacy in transforming vision into reality with this treasured Museum,” said Carlos R. Cardenas, Chair, Board of Trustees, and Senior Vice President Group Manager, Wintrust Commercial Bank. “Everything he has done is based on showcasing the richness and beauty of Mexican art and culture, raising up artists and bringing light to issues affecting our neighbors and the world.

Carlos Tortolero has ensured tremendous levels of impact, innovation, success, and representation. The NMMA is well positioned to continue to deliver on its mission of being a leader in advocacy for Mexican art, culture and community through its high-quality and relevant curatorial exhibits, arts programming, and award-winning Yollocalli youth arts initiative. NMMA is also at its best financial position in its history. We have Carlos Tortolero to thank for this strong foundation, which will allow the NMMA to flourish for generations to come,” Cardenas said.

Tortolero organized a group of fellow educators and founded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in 1982, which opened its doors in 1987. The goal was to establish an arts and cultural organization committed to accessibility, education and social justice. Under Tortolero’s leadership, the Museum has leveraged its relationships, programs, activism and reach to forge innovative and significant collaborations with others, furthering its impact well beyond the footprint of a typical Museum or community organization. In 2006, the Museum’s name changed to the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Tortolero is a published author and has represented the Museum nationally and globally as a thought leader. He has served on numerous boards and committees, including as Board Trustee at the University of Illinois, and he created the Mexican Cultural Alliance, a mentorship program with eight other Mexican arts organizations in the U.S. and Mexico.

He holds an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Dominican University, River Forest, Ill.; an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Chicago; and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Arts, Columbia College, Chicago.

Other significant recognitions include Chicago History Museum, “The Harold Washington Making History Award for Distinction in Public Service;” Chicago Sun-Times, “200 for 200: The Most Prominent Illinoisans in 200 Years of History;” and the “Ohtli Award” given to Mexicans by Mexico’s Department of Foreign Relations.

“It’s the vision and dedication of our excellent Trustees, the extraordinary dedication and creativity of our amazing staff and the incredible support of our visitors, supporters, and partners that have made the Museum what it is today,” Tortolero said. “I’m humbled to have had the chance to serve. Whoever takes the reins will be leading a hardworking and successful organization. I’m positive the new president will lead the Museum to more wonderful accomplishments.”

About the National Museum of Mexican Art

Located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the National Museum of Mexican Art is one of the country’s most prominent Latino cultural organizations and the only nationally accredited museum dedicated to Mexican art and culture. In 2020, the Museum earned the honor of being named one of America’s Cultural Treasures by the Ford Foundation. Its Permanent Collection consists of more than 20,000 artworks. The Museum has presented over 150 exhibitions, provides arts education to 52,000 students each year and serves over 150,000 annual visitors from 60 countries. The Education Department is nationally recognized and the Performing Arts Department presents events at the Museum, at Millennium Park and nationally and internationally. Admission to the Museum is always free.

Diane Laux

SOURCE National Museum of Mexican Art