Mexican American Cultural Center Prepares for Phase 2 of Its Long-Term Renovations

Staff members prepare to move out as MACC gets a facelift

Courtesy of Mexican American Cultural Center

The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center threw its 15th annual Viva México celebration on Saturday Sept. 17, ringing in the event’s quinceñera and the first non-restricted celebration since before the pandemic. And the event certainly returned with a bang.

Live music ranging from samba to mariachi played as visitors enjoyed tents full of food, art, and activities on the MACC lawn. There were also panel discussions on the history of Austin’s Hispanic culture and art and even a lowrider car show.

Every staff member had a part to play in the celebration, says Michelle Rojas, the center’s culture and arts education manager. They contributed their personal and cultural backgrounds to the event. “You can see the MACC, when it's allowed to operate at full capacity, is very vibrant and very full,” Rojas says. “It makes me really happy to see everybody.”

The celebration was bittersweet for community members and staff. The MACC is preparing to shut down in December of this year for renovations as Phase 2 of its long-term renovation project (which began with Phase 1 in 2008) begin.

“This celebration is like the culmination of 15 years of having celebrations here,” Rojas says. “It's kind of like our farewell to the MACC just for two years.”

When the center reopens in winter of 2025 (assuming all goes well), visitors can expect a vast expansion in facilities for cultural learning and celebration, including more classrooms and studios, a larger theatre space, an industrial teaching kitchen, and more.

Heidi Tse has worked with the center to develop the budget for the design process under Austin’s public works department, considering many factors to improve local outreach and education.

Tse says the project has personal weight for her as a mother of a son with Chinese and Hispanic heritage. She sees her involvement as an homage to her son’s culture and an opportunity for her to contribute to the learning experience the MACC embodies.

“It's a legacy project for anyone who's involved,” says Tse. “Therefore, it's also a legacy project for me and something I can pass down to my children and their children.”

While renovations are slated to begin at the end of the year, the MACC will live on even without its home base, Rojas says. Through community events hosted anywhere from libraries to recreation centers, the center hope local venues will offer their spaces for events displaced by the MACC construction. Annual celebrations like Viva México will still be coordinated.

Olivia Tamzarian, marketing supervisor for the MACC, says the Phase 2 planning process has relied heavily on community involvement. Meetings with nearby residents and constant communication with local leaders has been prioritized throughout the project to make sure the expansion will serve the interests of its visitors. “The MACC is for the people, so the people need to shape the future of this building,” Tamzarian says.

Conversations around Austin’s ravenous growth are pertinent in the Rainey Street area, which Rojas has seen rapidly change throughout the 11 years she’s lived in the city. Rojas hopes the MACC can expand in a way that respects the community it was birthed from, always calling back to the people who transformed an industrial yard into a community hub.

“I feel like we wouldn't be where we're at today, if it weren't for the community being so involved,” Rojas says. “They unfortunately had to tear down the residential spaces, the homes, to make way for some of these condominiums that are now kind of overshadowing the MACC. They're growing all around us and the MACC is still staying put where it's at – standing strong.”

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Plans for MACC Renovation Underway
Plans for MACC Renovation Underway
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Mexican American Cultural Center, MACC

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