Tuesday, April 23, 2024

What a bold future for ITC entails

What a bold future for ITC entails


APRIL 25, 2022 — Editor’s note: This op-ed by ITC task force chairs Matt Brown, CEO of Centro San Antonio; Darryl Byrd, managing director of ULTRAte Strategy; and Chris Torgerson, tour & volunteer coordinator and museum educator at the San Antonio Museum of Art originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-NewsThe commentary also reflects the views of Karl Miller-Lugo, UTSA vice president for development and alumni relations; Veronica Garcia Rodriguez, interim head curator of the ITC; and Veronica Salazar, UTSA chief financial officer and senior vice president for business affairs.

For more than 50 years, the Institute of Texan Cultures, or ITC, has held an important role educating Texans and beyond about the state’s unique cultural heritage. During that time, the landscape of Texas and San Antonio has changed. And with each generation, the state’s cultural dynamic evolves.

Since 1973, the University of Texas at San Antonio has stewarded the ITC. In 2021, it launched the ITC Centennial 2068 Community Stakeholder Visioning initiative to gather community input while recognizing the important connection between the cultural history of Texas and a vision for forward momentum.

“We envision an ITC that is a welcoming and stimulating presence for local visitors and a sought-after attraction to visitors from across the globe.”

Three task forces assembled a diverse group of more than 40 industry and community leaders, each with a distinct set of expertise and experiences, that led the charge. The Museum of the Future Task Force envisioned a way for the ITC to provide engaging and distinctive learning experiences for visitors and schoolchildren. The Community Engagement and Sustaining Support Task Force focused on deepening engagement to enhance the ITC’s impact. The Facility and Land Stewardship Task Force considered the optimal internal/external physical space and location of the ITC to enhance the programmatic experience.

Despite being three different groups, we were surprised at the number of commonalities that surfaced from each group’s respective work.

Through the process, we deliberated with subject matter experts, reviewed consultant reports, had robust discussions and sought community input. Each task force committed to a process that valued every voice. Though the possibilities for our recommendations could have been wildly different, we found many areas of overlap in the final recommendations we presented for community feedback and to the steering committee for the second phase of the visioning process.

First and foremost, we recognize the need to create a revitalized and relevant ITC with interactive and immersive experiences, dining and retail options, and a strong brand to generate community pride. Accessibility — for all ages and languages, to all spaces, to all exhibitions and community activities, and to all forms of transportation — is essential.

We envision an ITC that is a welcoming and stimulating presence for local visitors and a sought-after attraction to visitors from across the globe. We recognize the significance of the ITC’s cultural festivals and recommend exploring more opportunities for cultural engagement activities that will bring additional visitors, revenue and exposure to support the ITC.

Leveraging the ITC’s pivotal role in education and strengthening the connection to UTSA faculty, programming and resources will open a wealth of possibilities for the community and for UTSA students and faculty. Exploring partnerships and affiliations to celebrate cultural engagement will build a better ITC.

Many of our discussions included talk of the facility known as the Texas Pavilion, the current home of the ITC’s collections and the site of its cultural festivals for nearly 50 years. While the Texas Pavilion, originally built for the 1968 World’s Fair, is renowned, it does not meet museum standards for the maintenance of exhibitions and archives. Nor does the facility have the technological capabilities to meet the needs of an immersive museum experience. The cost of meeting those needs is prohibitive.

Establishing a modern, highly visible and appropriately designed museum facility with flexible space to accommodate multiple functions and high use is crucial to usher the ITC into the future. We believe the ITC should remain downtown where it can be central to our community.

As ITC Centennial 2068 task force chairs, we are grateful for the time contributed by each task force member and subject matter expert, and we are especially grateful for their candor and their respectful, passionate exchange of ideas and perspectives.

We are proud of their work and look forward to the next phase of the process as the steering committee synthesizes our recommendations, the community feedback and the expert resources to create feasible scenarios for the future of the ITC to present to UTSA leadership later this spring. Most importantly, we look forward to an exciting new future for the Institute of Texan Cultures.

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