Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum

The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (MFACM) in the Pilsen/Little Village community of Chicago has over 3,500 artistic displays, the largest Latino institution of its type in the U.S. The Museum’s permanent collection of prints and drawings, photographs, folk and modern art traces over 3,000 years of Mexican history. Seven galleries of contemporary and classical artists of national and international fame include exhibits from the Indian and Aztec cultures, the Spanish Colonial Period, and the Mexican Revolution up to the present time.

The Spanish Colonial rooms in the Museum portray the spiritual feelings of the Mexican people in the years between 1519 and 1810. Included in these exhibits are the story of Sister Juana Inez de la Cruz, the 17th century nun who was a poet, writer, and playwright and a sculpture and painting by Alejandro Nelo, depicting the spiritual conversion of the people from the Indian cultures to Catholicism. The struggles against Spain are portrayed with busts of national heroes such as Father Hidalgo and Benito Juarez, the courageous leader and former president of Mexico who led its people in their struggles against Maximilian.

There are numerous other attractions at the MFACM such as the carvings of rural farmers by self-taught artist and sculptor, Mardonio Magena, and a magnificent work of art by the Huichol Indians of the Sierra Madres Mountains. This exhibit is composed of over one million ceremonial chaquira beads that relate the story of peyote used in sacred rituals. The Museum also features an oil painting by Alejandro Romero of the “Battle of Puebla,” the victory of a small band of Mexican soldiers against the French in 1862. This famous battle of “Cinco de Mayo” is celebrated more in America than in Mexico, however, as the Latino population still considers 16 September, “Diez y Seis,” as their day of independence. In addition, visitors will find displays by U.S. artists in The Virgin of Guadalupe section, the familiar icon of Mexico’s religion.

After the years of the Revolution from 1910 – 1921, the artistic movements of the printmakers and the muralists brought a new look to Mexican culture The Tierra de Libertad room is devoted to Emiliano Zapata, a national hero, who fought to return the land to the villagers. The Museum also houses the best collection of Mexico’s artist and printmaker, Leopold Mendez, a master in graphic arts and the founder of the Workshop of Popular Printing. Printmakers were extremely popular due to their ability for mass production and distribution of artwork to reflect the social protests and revolts of the times.

In keeping with the muralists who painted murals on public buildings, the Museum has exhibits that include art by Orozco, illustrations by Rivera, and the modernism of Siqueiros. Rivera’s work includes an ink-on-paper of children, an untitled graphite-on-paper, and a crayon work on newspaper. Another unique attraction at the MFACM is the original oil on canvas by commercial artist Jesus Helguera, which has probably been reproduced and commercialized more than any other piece of art. The painting, “the Legend of the Volcanoes,” tells the story of Popocateptl, the warrior, who carries the Aztec princess Iztaccihuatl away from her frozen sleep to dwell together as the two “once sleeping” volcanoes in Mexico.

The Museum offers six changing exhibits a year, ones that have included Frieda Kahlo and Gunther Gerzso, Mexico’s most celebrated abstract artist. In addition, it sponsors the annual Sister Juana Festival in the fall in honor of the social and artistic accomplishments of Mexican women throughout history and the celebration of the dead, “El Dia de Los Muertos.” The Del Corazon Performing Arts Festival at the Museum in the spring has attracted such noted guests as Isabel Allende, Sandra Cisneros, and Carlos Fuentes. In its ongoing portrayal of Mexican culture without borders, or “sin fronteras,” the Museum conducts educational and out-reach programs, concerts, guided tours, and demonstrations on a regular basis.

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.
Admission: Free for exhibits. Performances are ticketed, donations are welcome, and memberships are available.

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