Saturday, December 2, 2023

Public input critical to Institute of Texan Cultures’ next 50 years

Public input critical to Institute of Texan Cultures’ next 50 years


MAY 28, 2021 — Editor’s note: This op-ed by Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at UTSA, and Veronica Garcia Rodriguez, interim head curator of the Institute of Texan Cultures, originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News.

It stood as a monument to Texas pride during HemisFair ’68, the event that brought international attention to San Antonio. And for more than 50 years, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures has continued to uniquely showcase the rich cultural history of Texas.

“UTSA needs a premier museum—a gem we all can point to.”

Now it’s time to write the institute’s next chapters—to take this treasure into the next 50 years, and beyond.

Earlier this year, The University of Texas at San Antonio reaffirmed its commitment to the ITC’s future. In June, it will officially launch ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning to deepen and broaden the institute’s engagement as an exemplary cultural heritage institution. This community-driven process is critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the institute and its museum.

To advance this important work, UTSA is launching three task forces that will begin meeting in August and holding community engagement events in the fall. A focus on how the ITC benefits our community will drive all three working groups.

UTSA’s Museum of the Future task force will define how the ITC evolves into an exemplary institution with distinctive museum learning experiences to encourage a better understanding of our future as Texans. It will focus on strengthening the connection among the ITC, UTSA and our communities, engaging K-12 students, including today’s technology-driven learners, and serving Texas educators.

The Community Engagement and Sustaining Support group will examine ways to strengthen engagement with the community, supporting the ITC’s impact as the champion of Texan culture. Participants will explore partnerships, fundraising strategies and ways to build an effective case for philanthropic and other external support.

The final task force, Museum Facility and Land Stewardship, will identify strategies to ensure the ITC remains a destination to experience Texas’ rich cultures. This group will identify the requirements befitting a world-class museum facility and make recommendations that leverage the institute’s Hemisfair location to benefit the community and contribute to downtown San Antonio’s ongoing vitalization.

UTSA has engaged Lopez Negrete Communications to facilitate community input throughout the process. This Hispanic-owned, Texas-based firm was founded in 1985 and is recognized by the Smithsonian as a Hispanic marketing cultural steward. Its work includes the City of Houston’s Census 2020 Engagement Initiative and a COVID-19 public health awareness campaign for the Houston Health Department.

Equally as important, Lopez Negrete has a deep understanding of the ITC’s importance in San Antonio’s history, its cultural impact in our community, and its potential to advance important conversations about culture and heritage.

As facilitator, Lopez Negrete will oversee community discussions and engagement among UTSA, the ITC Centennial 2068 steering committee and its task forces, individual community stakeholders, and groups including the Urban Land Institute, local community organizations and placemaking consultants, among others.

To support the project, Lopez Negrete is partnering with TouchPoint Strategies, a Houston-based urban planning and economic development firm, to lead community engagement. TouchPoint president Damon Williams will direct these efforts. San Antonio-based Opt In Experts, a premier public affairs consulting firm led by Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez, will manage the initiative’s public outreach activities.

This visioning process will gather and transform shared solutions into a strategic, long-term plan for the institute. All of these community engagement events will be open to the public and all viable options will be considered.

The ITC is the only resource devoted entirely to Texas’ diverse cultural history. It’s where visitors engage with the state’s many cultures. It’s where they learn about the historical contributions of Mexican Americans to our state, including the history of so many families here in San Antonio.

This visioning process is a significant milestone for UTSA—and for San Antonio. Together, we share a desire to develop the blueprint that ensures the ITC’s vibrancy for the next 50 years.

Nationally recognized research universities have premier museums that tell meaningful stories. UTSA needs a premier museum—a gem we all can point to.

We have an opportunity to ensure the ITC does this for our future so that children and adults can celebrate the cultures that make Texas the vibrant state it is today. A well-designed roadmap that guides the ITC to its 2068 Centennial is critical in achieving our shared goal.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.