After centuries of exclusion, there has recently been a rallying call across the United States for accountability in many institutions, encouraging efforts towards racial equity and inclusivity. Educating the public about these issues has also brought to light the barriers to access in the museum terrain for Latinx art. It’s important to remember that Latinx Art is American Art, yet Latinx artists and art are severely underrepresented in galleries and museums throughout the country. In fact, a 2019 study done on the diversity of artists in museums found that in 18 major American art museums, only 2.8% were Latinx.
The Smithsonian Museum, which is one of the top visited museums in the country, has come up with some innovative ways to attract art lovers back to experience art exhibits in person. Among the staff at the Smithsonian is the first Latina Chief Art Curator of the National Art Gallery, Karen Vidángos. The Bolivian American social media specialist has united her passion for art with her social media experience to strengthen the presence of the Latinx community in museum institutions.
As a digital strategist and Latinx Art advocate, Vidángos was inspired to create her own social media platforms and online database to share her journey and her experience as a Latina working in the museum field. She is the proud founder of Latina In Museums and The Latinx Art Collective.
So I never announced it on Twitter but I launched the Latinx Art Collective, the first digital collective exclusively for U.S. Latinx artists and their supporters across the nation. This is a space for collectors and artists to find each other. Join: https://t.co/PxUWuhjisl pic.twitter.com/tFhKfN27TC
— Karen Vidangos (@latinainmuseums) September 22, 2021
Over the past couple of years, digital engagement has proven to reach people beyond a certain community. As digital use continues to thrive, so does the opportunity to make art accessible—something that is often integral to an artist’s growth and success. Vidángos created Latinx Art Collective with the purpose of amplifying the work of Latinx artists. It serves as a space where artists are able to promote themselves and their work, while reaching the largest possible audience online.
Vidángos also hopes to facilitate opportunities for art collectors, curators, educators, gallerists, and others to connect with the Latinx artists and support them. All members are encouraged to find art and connect with the artists in the Collective. Members can also show their support by making a donation to help keep the platform operating and fund events in future.
We had the opportunity to talk to Vidángos about everything from her upbringing with immigrant parents and how she was able to find her own path to her passion for the arts and how she’s using social media to make an impact. Scroll down to read My Modern Met’s exclusive interview with Vidángos.
How did your journey into art begin?
Growing up in a home centered around music allowed me to explore my creativity. My parents are immigrants so I was taught to focus my career on work that would give me stability, but at least outside of that I could sing, dance, and write (all classes my mother put me in). With this as my foundation (and a little bit of youth rebellion ditching my government and politics major for studio art), I found the path I was truly meant to be on.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from your parents?
The biggest lesson I've learned from my parents is about how to persevere. They sacrificed a lot to give me and my sister the audacity to dream of life beyond survival. They didn't give up when life in this country was stacked against them, so I can't either.
Being that you're someone who has work experience in social media strategy, it feels fitting that you'd help the art world in the digital space. Can you share a piece of expertise you'd offer to Latinx artists?
Working as a social media strategist in museums has taught me a lot about brand and audience building. The question shouldn't be, “what benefits my brand?” but, “what need is my brand fulfilling for the audience I am trying to reach?” The goal isn't one million followers. The goal is to help Latinx artists across the nation increase their visibility in the art world regardless of the stage they are in in their career or financial ability to market themselves. LAC is the supplement to the hard work they already do to promote their work and hopefully, a far-reaching platform to connect with curators, collectors, and anyone interested in Latinx art.
What is your advice for Latinx artists trying to get representation in galleries and museums?
Never underestimate the ability of networking with your peers and art community. You have to show up—to any and all kinds of events. I know this can be hard on the introverted set (myself included) but it helps get you noticed. You never know who you will meet! It's important to create meaningful connections and not just bee line it straight to the “important person.” Making genuine connections, you will find people that have the same perspective of art as you or spark new interests or ideas…and if you do pique the interest of a buyer or gallerist, it will be because they fundamentally believe in the work you are creating.
What’s next for you and Latinx Art Collective?
There is so much work to be done! I have so many ideas for the future of LAC but my focus right now is to strengthen the platform and its community. I want to make sure artist needs are being met before expanding.