Mónica Del Arenal has resigned as director of the Instituto Cultural de México, effective May 1. Del Arenal ends her tenure of nearly two years as head of the institute, which has presented programs including art exhibitions and Mexican-themed cultural programs under her direction.
Del Arenal said her decision to resign was largely due to political changes in Mexico.
“This situation is linked with the uncertainty of the political issues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico,” she said.
“I love my job, and I think the Mexican Cultural Institute is a great venue,” Del Arenal said, citing it as the oldest official venue for Mexican culture in the U.S. But “for me, [the situation] is unstable.”
Ambassador Reyna Torres Mendívil of the Consulate General of Mexico, who oversees the Instituto, was unable to comment prior to publication due to her schedule, according to Nuria Olascoaga, director of communications and public affairs at the consulate.
Del Arenal said she has been responsible for 65 projects during her time as director, including performing arts, visual arts, literature, and gastronomy events, in partnership with local institutions including libraries, The Pearl, Trinity University, the City of San Antonio’s International Relations Office, and the San Antonio Museum of Art.
Before her arrival in June 2016, the institute had been a “moribund” presence in the city for years, said Katie Luber, executive director of the San Antonio Museum of Art.
“[Del Arenal ] loves art and the culture of her city,” Luber said. “She’s brought excitement and vigor to the community,” particularly through “the rich cultural offerings of the Mexican government, through the Instituto.”
In October 2017, Del Arenal was one of nine honorees at the 8th annual Making A Mark On The World Women’s Award Luncheon hosted by the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She received the Visionary Award.
Luber, who described herself as being “shocked and dismayed” upon hearing of the resignation, said Del Arenal has been “a great colleague, open to collaboration. She’s been a wonderful partner to the museum.”
Rich Aste, executive director of the McNay Art Museum, agreed. The two directors arrived to their positions within months of each other in 2016, Aste said, and “her commitment to building strong community connections through the Cultural Institute were apparent to me very early on.”
Aste recalls lively, crowded exhibition openings at the Instituto, and lamented that he and the community would not experience more of what Del Arenal had to bring to San Antonio through the institution.
“It’s been an honor to call her a colleague and a friend,” he said.
Most recently, the Instituto presented the first official Tricentennial art exhibition, Kunst/Arte: A Dialogue, which ended March 11. The exhibition was organized by longtime San Antonio artist and gallery director Bill Fitzgibbons and the Lone Star Art Alliance, who paired German artist Klaus Killisch with Mexican artist Alejandro Colunga to honor two of the city’s strongest ethnic identities.
The Instituto will host one of six Common Currents exhibitions, also Tricentennial partner events. The culminating 1968-2017 section will open March 29 and run through May 7.
A replacement for Del Arenal has not yet been named.