CHICAGO -In honor of the upcoming Hispanic Heritage Month, Governor JB Pritzker today joined National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) leadership to dedicate the museum’s new Ray Castro Parking Lot Plaza. The recently completed parking lot, named in the late community leader’s honor, along with other recent upgrades to the museum were made possible by a $1.9 million capital grant from the State of Illinois.
“Thanks to the spaces we open today, visitors will not only have – for the first time – an accessible parking option while visiting the museum, but the surrounding plaza will function as a new community gathering place: hosting events that will bring Chicagoans and visiting art enthusiasts together,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These are the kind of simple but important investments that keep communities strong – and after years of delay under the prior administration, I’m proud to help the museum keep its mission moving for years to come.”
“Both here in Chicago and across Illinois, Hispanic residents have made invaluable contributions to our communities—a truth that is only emphasized through dedications like this one,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Thanks to this new parking lot plaza, named after an incredible Chicagoan leader, residents and visitors alike will not only have better access to the National Museum of Mexican Art, but also be able to enjoy the many benefits that a beautiful, community gathering place like this one will provide. I thank Governor Pritzker and the rest of our state partners for making this impactful investment in our local communities and art scene.”
“The National Museum of Mexican Art Board of Trustees wants to acknowledge the scores of people over many years who worked on the Museum’s behalf to move this project forward,” said Carlos Tortolero, Founder and President, National Museum of Mexican Art. “A special thank you to Governor Pritzker and his administration who have worked tirelessly with us to deliver this wonderful gathering space. Our neighbors, community and Museum visitors from everywhere will benefit from the addition of the Ray Castro Plaza.”
The plaza was named after Ray Castro, the first Mexican American ward committeeman in Chicago. He served as an iconic voice for his community’s culture and history from his early days organizing after-school programs for local children to his work advocating for Vietnam veterans, and later in city politics.
“My family and I are deeply grateful to Governor Pritzker and his Administration for ensuring the funding for the Ray Castro Plaza, which not only supports the Museum’s mission, but also honors my father’s legacy of community service, veterans’ activism and the historic elected role he played for all Latinos in Illinois,” said Martin R. Castro, Board Member, National Museum of Mexican Art Board of Trustees.
The Ray Castro Parking Lot Plaza, located east of the Museum, will serve as an outdoor community gathering space as well as a parking lot for museum visitors and guests. The newly created space pays homage to community supporters through the Orgullo Commemorative brick pavers program, showcasing a commemorative brick paver plaza. In addition, the plaza will feature a perimeter fence and custom bike racks.
The Ray Castro Parking Lot Plaza was made possible by a State capital grant amounting to nearly $2 million. While the parking lot plaza was initially awarded a grant from the State of Illinois on December 22, 2014, it was suspended on June 22, 2015 when the grant was not re-appropriated into an enacted capital bill. Recognizing the significance of the NMMA in the Pilsen community and beyond, Governor Pritzker’s administration reinstated the project on July 30, 2019 and the parking lot plaza construction was completed on July 9, 2021.
“The State of Illinois and DCEO are proud to support capital projects that enhance accessibility to vital community organizations like the National Museum of Mexican Art, allowing more residents and visitors to enjoy our unique attractions,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Through the Governor’s historic $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital program, we are committed to investing State dollars to improve our community anchors, while creating jobs and economic opportunity in communities across the state.”
“The National Mexican Museum of Art is a world-class cultural institution for Cook County,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I am grateful that the State of Illinois was able to make these improvements to the facility and surrounding area, including a new parking lot and the Ray Castro Parking Lot Plaza, which will continue to make the NMMA a wonderful local attraction and community space.”
“The Ray Castro Parking Lot Plaza dedication is a testament of the important contributions of the Latino community in our City and our State. It is a fitting addition to one of our most prominent cultural institutions adding a much-needed amenity that will serve the community for generations to come,” said Alderman Gilbert Villegas, Chairman Latino Caucus City of Chicago.
“Additional parking will allow the museum to welcome more visitors without overcrowding or residential streets. But more than that, this is an investment in our community and in the Mexican American cultural legacy so deeply rooted in Pilsen,” said Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th ward).
Founded in 1987, NMMA is one of the most prominent Latino cultural organizations in the nation and the only nationally accredited museum dedicated to Mexican art and culture. Today, the museum is home to one of the nation’s largest Mexican art collections, with an 11,000-piece permanent collection, connecting visitors to the rich history of Mexican culture. The museum has recently received $8 million donation from MacKenzie Scott and $3.5 million grant from the Ford Foundation. The museum’s longtime free admission policy continues to welcome and connect visitors to the diversity of Mexican culture. For more information, visit the National Museum of Mexican Art.