Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! We here at SITES take great pride in working to expand museum access and engagement for Latinos across the nation, and this month we want to highlight great Latino museum professionals from the SITES family who are making a difference across the country. Today, we're introducing Patty Arteaga, a former intern who took her time working on Latino museum initiatives and turned it into her current role as SITES' Latino Pilot Project Coordinator, discussing how an early museum visit helped reconcile her passions into the career she's built today, and where she hopes to go next:
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, my experience in visiting museums was unfortunately lackluster. School Field trips were almost nonexistent and family outings consisted of everything but museums. However, it was my mother’s outlook on life to be infinitely curious about the world and my interest in learning about my Mexican heritage that lead me visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art when I was 10. I clearly remember walking through their galleries filled with art from the Ancient Americas and thinking how much I wanted to work in a museum when I grew up. Fast forward to my Getty Multicultural internship in the summer of 2013 where I was exposed to museum education. This provided a combination of my passions to be an educator and work in a museum, and where I could work across generations and be an advocate for diverse audiences that pass (and don’t pass) through a museum’s door. This calling was my impetus to become a graduate student of George Washington University’s Museum Education Program (MEP) and realize my dream from 16 years ago of working in a museum into a reality.
As a graduate student, I undertook a spring internship at SITES. Even though my degree focused on informal education, the chance to expand my knowledge of how exhibits work and the opportunity to directly work with Project Director of Latino initiatives, Maria Del Carmen Cossu, convinced me that this was a great place for me. During my internship, I researched Latino audiences and their engagement in museums, in which I was later able to present at the American Alliance of Museums this past May. I also learned how to incorporate bilingual text into exhibits, as well as managing small projects. The most inspiring thing was being at the Smithsonian Institution, surrounded by an environment of incredibly hard working people who are trying to tell America’s stories.
Currently I am the Latino Pilot Project Coordinator at SITES, investigating the incredible work that is already being done by rural and community-based museums to engage Latino audiences. The pilot project also consists of incorporating local Latino stories and their relationship with water in the MoMS (Museums on Main Street) Water/Ways exhibit. While this project is at the initial stages, my goal is to gain more of an understanding of the diverse implications of what the “Latino Audience” is and how to utilize best practices in museums, whether that be in a rural town or in a large metropolitan city.
As I incorporate my past professional experiences with my current ones, I hope to move forward as a museum educator in developing activities, research, and programs that welcome all narratives and give inspiration to heritages new to museums the way I was inspired at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 16 years ago.