Amalia Mesa-Bains papers open for research

March 21, 2022
Alyssa Tou
Photo of Amalia Mesa-Bains

Special Collections is happy to announce that the Amalia Mesa-Bains papers (M2707) are now open for research. The collection, around 100 linear feet plus 8 map folders, reflects Amalia Mesa-Bains's long-time involvement in, and contributions to, the Chicano art movement and cultural studies and can be accessed through Searchworks.

Amalia Mesa-Bains is a California-based curator, author, visual artist, and educator born in Santa Clara who is known for her home altar- and ofrenda-style installation work. She has been an important figure in conceptualizations of cultural memory, history, and identity from a Chicana and Mexican American lens and has been involved in many important projects. One of her early major involvements was with Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation (CARA), for which she chaired the Northern California regional committee. It was a traveling exhibit of artists that toured the US in the early 1990s and was a milestone for the visibility of Chicano art in the United States. Mesa-Bains's active efforts in curation, on public commissions, and on advisory boards has brought attention to an area of the art world that has historically been overlooked.

The majority of the papers in this collection consists of work-related documentation, including for such events and organizations as CARA, Galería de la Raza and (Re)Generation, exhibitions she was involved in or curated such as Ceremony of Memory, Venus Envy, and New World Wunderkammer, and writing projects and lecture preparations. Though she is currently most famous for her work in the art sphere, Mesa-Bains was also involved in educational and curriculum development for the San Francisco Unified School District as a teacher in the Elementary Division and project manager for Consent Decree Staff Development and for Far West Laboratory as a research associate.

These papers also contain a sizeable art collection, predominantly prints and posters. Some of them are the artist's original prints and others were created by others, mainly Chicanos. Individuals represented here include Ester Hernández, Gronk, Rupert García, Carmen Lomas Garza and others.

Amalia Mesa-Bains is currently preparing for a number of upcoming exhibitions. The first is scheduled to open at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in June of this year. Her website provides a more detailed accounting of her past and current activities.