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The struggle to save the Museo Alameda hinges on a big bottle

Photo: Scott Andrews, License: N/A

Scott Andrews

George Cortez pointing towards the present location of Museo Alameda on a painting depicting his dreams for Market Square, painted 20 years ago.

Photo: Scott Andrews, License: N/A

Scott Andrews

SA artist Jesse Treviño at “The White Castle.”

When Museo Alameda opened its doors in April, 2007, as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, it was the realization of a dream for many artists in San Antonio. Though the City of San Antonio turned over city property to house the Museo and continues to help fund the effort through the Office of Cultural Arts, the operation has been on a downward slide almost from the beginning. Directors have come and gone and community support has dwindled amidst rumors of fiscal mismanagement and impending lawsuits. The Museo has no endowment fund and is sinking in debt. Faced with bankruptcy, the Museo was partially bailed out when the City assumed operational costs 18 months ago. A year and a half later, the City is once again taking extraordinary measures to prop up the floundering museum. Even though the Museo botched its proposal for 2012 funding from the Office of Cultural Affairs, receiving a dismal score 10 points below the minimum threshold of 75 in its presentation to OCA’s Cultural Arts Board (CAB) panel, they’re still in the money. The other 10 applicants who failed to make a passing score this year aren’t so lucky, but last week OCA recommended that $150,000 in unallocated funds from OCA’s 2012 budget, paid for by the Hotel Occupancy Tax, should go to the chronically challenged institution. Last Friday, City Council approved that recommendation as part of the next city budget. The Museo is likely to receive yet more financial assistance from the city. The Memo of Understanding agreed to 18 months ago that established that the city would assume the running costs of the city-owned property that houses the Museo in Market Square expires September 29, but is expected to be renewed, once again using the city’s Market Square fund to cover the Museo’s rent and utilities expenses. Not everyone is happy with the state of affairs, and the money is just the half of it.

Founded in 1995 as the Alameda National Center for Latino Arts and Culture, the Museo was part of a master plan that included the restoration of the iconic Alameda Theatre as part of the mission to “tell the story of the Latino experience in America through art, history, and culture.” The fundraising drive to accomplish the Center’s many goals was headed up by philanthropist Henry Muñoz III, now CEO of Kell Muñoz Architects, Inc., the largest minority-owned architectural firm in Texas. Muñoz served as first chairman of Alameda, Inc., the Center’s umbrella organization. Other supporters included Rosemary Kowalski, owner of prestigious catering firm the RK Group, and George Cortez, owner of Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery in Market Square. Since the opening four years ago, there have been some strong shows at the Museo, like Phantom Sightings, a traveling show organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a Jesse Treviño retrospective curated by Ruben C. Cordova, recently of UTSA, but many weak ones, too. But before the Museo existed, there were dreams.

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