Rebecca Avitia is feeling like she’s been on a rocket ship – and she only wants to fly higher.
The executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center recently completed her first year in the position.
While there have been some bumps along the way, she says the center is on a great track and will be celebrating its quinceñeara this year.
The center was built in 2000 and Avitia has brought stability to the center after a few years without permanent leadership.
“It’s been amazing. Fast paced,” she says of her first year. “In many ways, we’ve gone farther than I had initially planned for the first year.”
There are a few areas where the NHCC has seen some big gains in programming – visual arts, performing arts and education outreach.
According to the NHCC, the performing arts saw a 30 percent increase for the month of February, with 5,799 attending shows. The number is up from 4,456 in February 2014.
The year-to-date increase for the performing arts is 14.3 percent.
Also the education outreach programming had 4,148 visitors to the NHCC in February. This is up from 1,973 visitors in the program in February 2014.
For the month, the attendance has grown by 110 percent, while the year to date is at 21.6 percent.
The visual arts program, which includes the art museum, is up 26.4 percent for the year.
Along with the increases, visitors would have seen Avitia at the majority of the events at the NHCC.
In fact, during ¡Globalquerque! at the NHCC last September, Avitia found herself trying to split time at three various events, which included the NHCC events.
“To me it’s critical that I’m at every event here at the center and as many events as I can in the community,” she says. “It’s important to be at the center’s events because I’m greeting everyone, I’m that person. I think of it as a dinner party. You wouldn’t want to go to a dinner party and the host wasn’t there.”
Avitia also is the connector for the different programs at the NHCC.
“I want to make sure there is a connection for you, even if you usually go to exhibit openings,” she says. “I want the visitors to see a familiar face at these events.”
Seeing those increases at the NHCC is a proud moment for Avitia.
While she’s the head of the center, she does realize what a great team it takes to achieve the goal.
“It’s thrilling,” she says. “To me, it’s like watching a child learn to walk. It’s amazing to see everyone come together. It feels good when you witness your own accomplishments. But when you witness an entire team of people come together and create amazing things on a weekly basis, it feels magical.”
Christopher Saucedo, the NHCC board president, has worked with Avitia closely since she took the job.
“One of the things that has been increasingly obvious since Rebecca arrived is a growing sense of optimism throughout the NHCC campus, among both visitors and staff. She brings a sense of energy that is contagious and you can feel it when you walk onto the grounds,” Saucedo says.
The NHCC recently found a new tenant for the restaurant space, which will see M’Tucci’s Latin Cocina move in soon. Albuquerque-based Pop Fizz also has moved onto the campus and is renting out the full-service kitchen.
Avitia still has many goals for the NHCC and its staff.
“We have to increase our fundraising to support our increased programming,” she says. “Our staff resources have had to stretch to cover our programming. I don’t see those challenges as insurmountable. We’re moving forward into another great year at the center and want to raise community awareness.”