Mexic-Arte Museum announces architects for building project, responds to allegations of unsafe conditions

Board says building repairs have been made and management concerns addressed, but fails to give specifics


Mexic-Arte Museum announced today that it has chosen El Paso firm Exigo Architecture and Austin’s Cotera + Reed Architects to lead the design of the museum’s building project.

Since 2018, Mexic-Arte has had $20.7 million in voter-approved city bond money for the rehabilitation of its building, a three-story 1869 structure on Congress Ave.

Exigo Architecture is the designer of El Paso’ $15.7 million Mexican-American Cultural Center which recently broke ground. Among Cotera + Reed’s Austin’s projects are the museum for the Waco Mammoth National Monument.

A specific timeline and budget for Mexic-Arte’s new building project was not announced.

in 2020, the Office of the City Auditor found that despite having had some of the bond money for years, Mexic-Arte had failed to start any improvement project and the city had failed to exercise enough oversight to compel the museum to comply.

Related: ‘Audit finds city oversight of Mexic-Arte lax’

The building project announcement comes on the heels of problems brought to light last month by current and former museum workers. Using the moniker ChangeMexicArteMuseum the group mounted a campaign on social media to expose the unsafe conditions for people and for works of art.

Related: ‘Hazardous conditions for art and people at Mexic-Arte, say museum workers. Photos posted online show mold, exposed wiring, rodent traps where art is stored and staff must work’

Before today’s building project announcement Mexic-Arte took to its Facebook page to post a statement in response to the allegations.

In the statement, the board claims it was unaware of the problems stating, “these concerns had not been brought to the Board of Directors directly.”

Multiple engineering and architectural studies over the years have found the three-story building on Congress Avenue to be in poor condition. Built in 1869, the structure has never met art preservation standards for temperature and humidity control as set by the American Association of Museums. The museum’s upper two floors failed a 1993 city inspection.

The board statement goes on to say that “repairs have been made to the current building,” but fails to give any specifics.

Verified photographs provided by ChangeMexicArteMuseum showed mold, exposed wiring and rodent traps in areas where art is stored and staff are required to work. The group said that had they had reported the building’s condition numerous times to the Occupational Safety and Health and Administration (OSHA).

The Sandoval Collection is comprised of over 1,500 artworks, many of them created by Mexican and Latinx artists.

The group also raised concerns about the lack of transparency from the board and museum leadership, as well as a lack of a human resources program that led to a failure to provide promised health benefits, among other issues, and no channel for employees to seek recourse.

In its statement the board pledges more transparency to staff and the public, writing “the hiring of a human resource professional is in process to support our staff and the museum’s growth. To stay better connected with the entire team and museum patrons, we’ve established an email that goes directly to the board at”

As of press time, a message sent to that email bounced back as undeliverable.

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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