Mid-Week Intermission Friend Edition: Olivia Tamzarian of the Mexican American Cultural Center

Dia de Muertos is around the corner and Hispanic Heritage Month has begun! If you attended a Drop-In show this summer or stopped by Community Day, chances are you had a conversation with Olivia Tamzarian from Austin’s Mexican American Cultural Center. In this Mid-Week Intermission, hear about what the MACC’s been up to, why this season is her favorite, and more from our friend Olivia.

Olivia in calavera makeup. Photo by Luis Armando
Calavera makeup by Olivia. Photo by Luis Armando.
Meet Olivia Tamzarian, Culture & Arts Marketing and Outreach rep at the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC)

If you’re wondering about my last name… yes, it’s unique. It’s Armenian! I come from a multiethnic family, and maybe that’s why I’ve always been passionate about Latino culture. I studied Mexican Art at Bard College and was so in love with Frida Kahlo that I moved to Mexico. A year later, I found myself in Austin, and like so many 23-year-olds who are starting out here, I found a studio apartment on East Riverside. With no car, I learned this city on my bicycle.

Olivia stands next to a larger than life portait of artist Frida Kahlo
Olivia with an artwork of Frida Kahlo, her favorite artist. Fall 2022

It was 2006, when Austin was going through a major boom. The Palmer Events Center had just been rebuilt, and I would ride my bike along Riverside to outdoor movie nights on the Long Center lawn. The small-town vibe still existed, and the Austin I got to know was exploding with creatives and young people. I formed a close community of friends at the old Ruta Maya on South Congress who introduced me to the music of Grupo Fantasma and brought me to my first ACL Fest. I was hooked!

That was the same year the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) was built. Who knew back then that I would be working in the cultural arts full-time with the MACC? I worked at the Mexic-Arte Museum first, where I taught screenprinting for youth in Dove Springs. Now, my position at the MACC is still in outreach to the community. There’s very few places in Austin that are dedicated only to preserving Latino culture. The MACC is located in the Rainey Street area, a historically Mexican-American neighborhood that, like my Riverside neighborhood, has become almost unrecognizable due to gentrification (you can read more about Olivia’s fight for preservation here). I’m proud to be an ally and help the MACC stand its ground in downtown Austin, to make sure we preserve the Mexican and Latino culture in the heart of our city.

Viva Mexico at the MACC in 2022, skirts and photo by Olivia
Viva Mexico at the MACC in 2022, skirts and photo by Olivia
Mexamericon 2018 at the MACC, Olivia dresses as a Lucha Libre wrestler, photo by Ulises Garcia Vela

In Austin I have found the deepest sense of community. I get to meet so many artists — muralists, actors, musicians — and I also enjoy salsa dancing and I have my own visual arts practice. I’m lucky I found a job where I can integrate my artistic practice into my promotional efforts for the MACC. In September 2022, I constructed two “quinceneara” skirts to promote the MACC’s Viva Mexico celebration. In November, I’ll be painting kids’ faces for Day of the Dead celebrations at the Long Center and the Pan Am Rec Center, where the MACC’s big events in 2023 are taking place while we expand our building.

Day of the Dead 2019 at the MACC, Olivia painting faces. Photo by Ulises Garcia Vela
Day of the Dead 2019 at the MACC, Olivia painting faces. Photo by Ulises Garcia Vela.

The MACC is a special place in Austin, and when we reopen after the construction, it’s going to be beautiful to see all the people gathering in joyous celebrations like Dia de Muertos. It warms my heart to see artwork by kids, to see them picking up cultural traditions from their grandparents, and engaging with their whole family at the MACC. My favorite thing we do all year is celebrate Day of the Dead, which is a way of celebrating the cycle of life and strengthening a cultural connection to Mexico.

We’re entering Latinx Heritage month now — my favorite time of year! I love this city and never want to leave. And despite all its changes, in the end, Austin is still a small town in my eyes.

Coco Live-In-Concert | the Long Center

UP NEXT AT THE LONG CENTER 

Join us and the MACC at the Long Center November 8th for Disney Pixar’s Coco Live-to-Film Concert featuring the Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México! Watch the entire film with Michael Giacchino’s award-winning score performed live on stage.

KEEP IN TOUCH

At the Long Center, we’ve always got a new partnership or something cool we know you’ll want to check out! Find and follow us @longcenter on your social media platform of choice, and we’ll see you real soon.

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