The National Museum of Mexican Art Announces Fire Station Acquisition to Enhance Youth Programs, Community Outreach

CHICAGO, April 30, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The National Museum of Mexican Art announced it has acquired from the City of Chicago the property at 2358 S. Whipple Street in Little Village, a decommissioned fire station. In October, the City Council approved the $1 sale of the City-owned property to the Museum for redevelopment into a community center for art programming.

The fire station was built in 1907 and has been vacant since 2011, when Chicago Fire Department Engine Co. 109 moved into a new facility at 2343 S. Kedzie Avenue.

Once restored, the 8,600-square-foot building will be home to a second location for Yollocalli Arts Reach, the award-winning youth initiative of the Museum that offers free arts and culture programming to teens and young adults. The renovated site will also provide a much-needed community gathering space for multigenerational activities.

The popular Yollocalli program has outgrown its current space within the Little Village Boys & Girls Club. Museum leaders believe the additional facility will allow Yollocalli programming to double its capacity, serving 300 more students through after-school and summer programs. 

The total development cost of the project is estimated at $4 million, which the Museum expects to finance through grants and related funding, pro-bono and discounted services, and support from Museum advocates.

“We are beyond excited at the opportunity to repurpose this vacant building and expand our youth arts programming, providing critical resources to youth in Little Village and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Yanet Garcia, Museum Trustee, Co-Chair of the Fire station Committee, and Vice President, Construction at Related Midwest. “We look forward to working with our partners to make this important initiative a reality.”

Garcia notes that Yollocalli students and members of the Little Village community have been active participants in the process.

Carlos Tortolero, Founder and President Emeritus of the National Museum of Mexican Art, said, “We are incredibly grateful to Mayor Brandon Johnson, to Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development and Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez for shepherding this through the City Council, to Alderman Michael Rodriguez for his support, and to Commissioner George Cardenas, Cook County Board of Review Commissioner of the First District and former alderman, who initiated the project. Yollocalli is an important part of the Museum’s mission and legacy.”

“We’re thrilled to expand our programming for the youth of Little Village and the Chicagoland area,” said Vanessa Sanchez, Director of Education and Yollocalli Arts Reach. “We see the fire station as a spark for youth joy and expression, creative opportunities, partnerships, and community. As a former student of Yollocalli, I look forward to continuing its legacy in this place, and just like its name, it will be the ‘house of the heart’ for more young people.” 

Wallin-Gomez Architects, Ltd. is the architect of record in transforming the historic fire station into a modern arts education and community center. Civic Projects Architecture is the design consultant for the building’s program space.

The first floor of the renovated building will include a reception area, staff offices, lounge areas, recording booth, gallery, and performance and meeting space for up to 65 people. Yollocalli students will utilize the first floor, which will also be open to community members for meetings, workshops, performances, and other gatherings.

The second floor will include four art studios including a ceramics studio, digital media recording room, and additional breakout rooms and gathering spaces. Restorers will preserve the buildings’ original tin ceilings and glazed tiles and repurpose a spiral staircase into an indoor garden.

Work to renovate and restore the building is underway. The Museum hopes to open the new facility in early 2025.

About the National Museum of Mexican Art

The National Museum of Mexican Art is one of the country’s most prominent Latino cultural organizations and the only nationally accredited museum dedicated to Mexican art and culture. In 2020, the Museum earned the honor of being named one of America’s Cultural Treasures by the Ford Foundation. Its Permanent Collection consists of more than 20,000 artworks. The Museum has presented over 150 exhibitions, provides arts education to 52,000 students each year, and serves over 150,000 annual visitors from 60 countries. Admission is always free.

Media Contact:
Diane Laux

SOURCE National Museum of Mexican Art