McALLEN — The new executive director of McAllen’s museum looked north, looked south, and decided the future is here.
Joseph Bravo, a soft-spoken straight-shooter from San Antonio, runs the International Museum of Art & Science from a small, sparsely decorated office in the building’s northeast corner. He’s a former college professor who spent many years at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where he started as an intern and worked his way up. Now approaching 50 years old, Bravo said he wants to help McAllen’s museum grow with the city.
“I didn’t come down here to turn around and go to Dallas in three years,” said Bravo, who started Aug. 2. “I will be here for the rest of my career, God and McAllen willing.”
Wearing a navy blue suit, Bravo walked the museums’ grounds near the intersection of Nolana and Bicentennial Boulevard, explaining his goals. He wants to suspend a massive metal wind-turbine blade, currently parked by the main entrance, near the intersection. The leaky roof also needs fixing, Bravo said. And the museum, already crowded, will eventually need much more space.
With nearly 43 percent of its population under 24 years old and a relatively strong economy, McAllen and its museum have plenty of growth ahead, Bravo said. That growth will be shaped by his work in San Antonio.
There, Bravo worked in nearly every department, said Tim Foerster, director of exhibits. Foerster and Bravo set up exhibits together, discussing everything from European rock to motorcycles.
“Joe was pretty much an authority on most things to do with rock and roll back in the 1970s,” Foerster said. Before they met, both men rode motorcycles as high school students, racing a dirt track on San Antonio’s north side near Churchill High School.
At the San Antonio museum, Bravo met archeologists who studied the pyramids and worked with artifacts buried by Russian nomads. He compared the excitement of working on that exhibit to being backstage with Pink Floyd after every show. Such exhibits widen horizons and spark ambition, Bravo said.
Bravo said he will focus McAllen’s museum on Latino art, which isn’t adequately represented nationwide. Reaching out to Mexican nationals who live in McAllen and others who haven’t traditionally worked with the museum will help influence exhibits and raise money.
“If you don’t show it in McAllen, where the heck are you going to show it, right?” Bravo said, adding he’ll prioritize artists from the Valley instead of “some dead dude from France.”
“I want everyone to know this is their museum,” Bravo said.
Dave Hendricks covers McAllen and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4452