Carlos Rivera Pineda,
1939-2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Carlos Rivera Pineda, a longtime advocate for the arts in Austin and a prolific artist and arts educator himself, died Monday after a short illness, said his daughter, Ariadne Pineda of Washington, D.C. He was 70.

Pineda was the former administrator of the city's Dougherty Arts Center, where he worked for 22 years. "What made Carlos very special is that he was deeply interested in arts education and in bettering the lives of artists and the community through the arts. He really felt that artists had to be part of the community and involved," said Herlinda Zamora, exhibit coordinator at the Mexican American Cultural Center.

For years, Pineda, along with other arts professionals and community leaders, championed the idea of a city center devoted to Mexican American and Latino culture. The Mexican American Cultural Center was the fruit of that 30-year vision. When it opened in September 2007, it featured a retrospective of Pineda's work titled Hacia La Vida (Toward Life). The exhibit showcased Pineda's signature vivid colors and stark portraits of local Mexican Americans.

Through those portraits, "he wanted to show the best of Mexican American people," Zamora said. "That's the way he gave back, too, so that people could learn about who these people were and what made them so special."

Musicians Ruben Ramos and Roy Montelongo and artist and activist Marsha Gómez were among Pineda's portrait subjects. A native of Ruby, Ariz., Pineda lived in Austin for more than 42 years. In 2003, he retired from the Dougherty Arts Center, which offers a variety of visual and performing arts programs. It was there that Pineda created the city's "Totally Cool, Totally Art" program, which employs artists to teach schoolchildren. Since 1996, the program has served as a creative outlet for thousands of Austin teenagers.

In retirement, Pineda refocused on his painting. The six years leading up to his death were a particularly productive period.

In 2006, the Texas Senate and the City of Austin recognized Pineda for his work on the Austin History Center's "Que Vivan los Veinticinco," a Mexican American cultural heritage project that honored 25 deceased Mexican American community leaders in Austin. Pineda painted portraits of the leaders from which banners were designed, said his daughter, Mirea Pineda of Tucson, Ariz.

The Mexican American Cultural Center plans to have a tribute to Pineda on May 22, Zamora said.

Pineda is also survived by his wife, Yolanda Acuña Pineda and daughters Mairena Pineda-Balfour of Alexandria, Va., and Maura Hose of San Antonio.

By Juan Castillo, AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF