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Mariano Desmaras: Exhibit Design for First Smithsonian Latinx Gallery

museum and gallery team standing in front of the new gallery install cutting a ribbon

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s new Molina Family Latino Gallery was designed by Museum Environments, a firm headed by Mariano Desmaras (BFA 89). The 4,500-square-foot gallery, dedicated to Latinx history and culture, is a precursor to the National Museum of the American Latino and will present bilingual stories for multigenerational and cross-cultural audiences featuring multimedia, physical objects, and first-person voices. 

The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, ¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States is an introduction to critical concepts, moments, and biographies that shine a light on the historical and cultural legacy of U.S. Latinas and Latinos, exploring how Latino History is American History.” 

Desmaras’ firm, Museum Environments, specializes in multicultural and bilingual exhibits. The gallery is fully bilingual and accessibility is a key goal of all design elements. The participation of artists, designers, artisans that are cultural stake-holders of the Latinx community were invited to participate in the design process. 

Owner and creative director Mariano Desmaras is originally from Puerto Rico, and many of the members of the design team also have Latinx or Latin American origins. Mariano received a BFA and BA from the University of Michigan, and later acquired a Masters degree in architecture from GSAPP Columbia University. He combines both skills to design exhibits for institutions around the country and internationally. 

A new exhibit takes visitors closer to the National Museum of the American Latino | NPR