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Inauguration group donates funds for Latino arts

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Eva Longoria (AP Photo)

Eva Longoria (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Organizers of a gala concert and series of events celebrating Latino culture during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration are donating the proceeds to help raise the national profile of Latino arts and culture.

On Friday, actress Eva Longoria and others announced they are giving $170,000 to the Friends of the American Latino Museum, which aims to build a museum on the National Mall. That group will make grants ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 to the Smithsonian Latino Center, the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation and the Kennedy Center to support Latino cultural programs.

A co-chairman of the Latino Inaugural event, who is now finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee, said the gifts are symbolic to begin developing Latino philanthropy to ensure Latinos have a prominent place in the nation’s cultural institutions.

“It represents our investment into institutions that are responsible for telling the American story,” said Henry Munoz III. “It is saying now that we’re beginning to develop a generation of arts patrons, of involvement in the arts that will begin to pave the way for a more complete story.”

The money also supports the advocacy effort to urge Congress to authorize a national Latino museum. A bill has passed through the Senate but is awaiting action in the House.

Munoz led a presidential commission that called in 2011 for an American Latino museum to be built as part of the Smithsonian Institution. Longoria also served on the commission, along with actor Emilio Estefan and others.

In a written statement, Longoria said Latinos “are leaving their mark in politics, culture and the arts” across the nation.

Latinos played a prominent role in Obama’s second election and inauguration, after raising funds and turning out the vote. Hispanics voted 7 to 1 for Obama over Republican Mitt Romney. Latino dollars also helped make a difference, Munoz said.

“This is the moment to begin to develop Latino philanthropy. It’s critically important,” he said. “I’m hoping that this will increasingly be known as the brown age. It’s important for us to support our own.”

The gift to the Smithsonian will support an upcoming exhibition entitled “Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Kennedy Center leads training for minority arts organizations, and the National Park Foundation has a fund to help preserve significant sites in Latino history.

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