Arts, culture and Chicano history have interested Rebecca Muñoz since she was a little girl. Now she is living her dream as the director of the city’s new Mexican American Cultural Center.

The center, which is a part of the city’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department, is one of three signature quality of life bond projects approved by voters in 2012. The center will celebrate and present Mexican-American cultural heritage through arts, dance, food and theater.

“I grew up with a very artistic grandfather on my dad’s side. He was a contractor and he did a lot of buildings and construction in the Jefferson High School area,” Muñoz said of her grandfather Ysabel Muñoz. “He always had weird sculptures in the backyard that were fascinating to me, and anywhere you drive down in Central El Paso or Downtown El Paso you’ll see his murals. Seeing this visual culture has always been inspiring to me.”

The MACC will open in spring 2024 at 201 W. Franklin in Downtown and it is being built as part of the renovations to the Main Library and Cleveland Square Park at a cost of about $25.3 million. The city initially allocated $5 million for the MACC project, but increased the funding after push back from the community. The city added funding to the project partly through certificates of obligation, a form of non-voter approved debt after the scope of the project and library renovations increased. Muñoz was hired Aug. 14.

Muñoz is a native El Pasoan who grew up in the Lower Valley and earned a bachelor’s in philosophy from the University of Texas at El Paso. She has a master’s in painting at New Mexico State University and is working on her doctorate in rhetoric and writing studies with a focus on visual rhetoric at UTEP.

She said her family is the foundation of her understanding of arts and culture. Growing up, Muñoz wanted to be a children’s book author or a painter. Today, she gets to utilize her knowledge of arts and culture from her experience as a visual artist and cultural producer.

“Rebecca has a long tenure within MCAD, and we’re pleased to have her on board as the new director of the MACC,” Cultural Affairs and Recreation Managing Director Ben Fyffe said in a statement. “She has been instrumental in MCAD’s growth including initiating the Downtown Art and Farmers Market, growing the attendance of signature events like Chalk the Block and the Dia de Los Muertos, and overseeing the City’s grant-making process to award $1.5 million to support our local artists and nonprofit organizations.”

Some of Muñoz’s duties as the director of the MACC include hiring staff, overseeing day-to-day operations, promoting the center and fundraising, among others.

Muñoz said she is excited to completely program a new facility. While it can be overwhelming, it is also a dream come true, she said.

Rebecca Muñoz, a native El Pasoan with extensive background in community and cultural work, has been appointed director of El Paso’s Mexican American Cultural Center. Muñoz, who calls the appointment her “dream job,” looks forward to collaborating with the community to schedule programming and showcase border culture when the center opens in early 2024. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“It’s a space for the community to come see themselves reflected in the programming. I’m most excited about the opportunity to work with the community of El Paso to determine programming and really being able to explore the different kinds of artistic practices that are here in the borderland,” Muñoz said. 

The center will include exhibition and performance spaces, such as an auditorium and a black box theater, along with classrooms, a dance studio, broadcast and recording studios, artist-in-residence studio, indoor and outdoor programmable spaces and archival facilities. Culinary programs and the rooftop lounge are going to be some of the other main highlights of the center. 

“We have a great artistic community here and so many great culture bearers that push forward our artistic practices and really share their love of culture, and I really look forward to being able to begin showcasing all of the amenities that the cultural center has,” Muñoz said.