Latino Art Museum in Pomona reopens with tribute to founder – Daily Bulletin

When the Latino Art Museum in downtown Pomona opens its doors this weekend for the first since March 2020, it will do so without its longtime founder.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary and grand reopening, the museum will host a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at 281 S. Thomas St. Live art, musical performances, and an auction fundraiser will be part of the festivities.

Saturday’s event also pays tribute to Graciela Nardi, the museum’s founder, who died in December 2020 at age 74 after battling cancer. An exhibition of her work is displayed in her honor, and her portrait will be painted live on Saturday.

Matias Nardi, 42, is now filling his mother’s role as director of the museum, an opportunity he discussed with her before her passing. Though he previously helped with marketing, the younger Nardi wasn’t involved with day-to-day museum operations, meaning he had a lot to learn in recent months, he said.

“Right before she passed away, we got a chance to talk about the museum’s future for about 12 hours one day,” Nardi, a music producer, said Thursday. “I told her, ‘I don’t want to just shut it down, you’ve put 19 years of your life doing this,’ and felt like this community depends on it.”

His mother, born in Argentina, created a legacy that impacted her community, he said. She was affectionally called “the Madrina” — the godmother of the Pomona Arts Colony — for her contributions to the local art scene, he said.

In the days after his mother passed, Nardi said he received over 1,000 messages and emails from people who knew her and wondered about the museum’s future. Due to the pandemic and extended museum closure, debts had built up, threatening a reopening.

But after hosting a 24-hour livestream crowd-sourcing event in March, Nardi was able to raise $10,000 to help clear the debt and clear a path to resume operations.

David Pion-Berlin, secretary of the museum board, said Saturday’s reopening will be the community’s first opportunity to properly memorialize Graciela Nardi. He said the museum is one of the pillars of the Pomona Arts Colony since its founding in 2001, a legacy that will now live on beyond its beloved founder.

“When Graciela passed away and then with COVID-19, you weren’t sure what was going to happen here,” Pion-Berlin said. “But we knew how important this was and we were determined to reopen it.

“It’s very important because it brings people of this community together to see great art from around the world, something that we hope continues,” he added.

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