AAHHE William Aguilar Cultural Arts Award

The AAHHE William Aguilar Cultural Arts Award recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly to the understanding of the national Latino community and/or culture through the fine, creative, and performing arts.

2024 William Aguilar Cultural Arts Award Recipient 

Maria Esther Fernandez, MA
Artistic Director
The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of The Riverside Art Museum

María Esther Fernández is the inaugural artistic director of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture, which opened at the Riverside Art Museum, California, in June of 2022. Formerly the chief curator and deputy director of the Triton Museum of Art, in Santa Clara, California, Fernández has curated numerous group and solo exhibitions, including Xicana: Spiritual Reflections/Reflexiónes Espirituales in 2010 and Consuelo Jimenez Underwood: Welcome to Flower-Landia, in 2013. In 2019, she co-curated Xicanx Futurity with Carlos Jackson and Dr. Susy Zepeda at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis. Most recently, she co-curated, Amalia Mesa Bains: Archaeology of Memory at BAMPFA with Dr. Laura E. Peréz. She is working on a major retrospective of Judithe Hernández’s work set to open at The Cheech in 2024. Fernández was included in the inaugural list of LA Vanguardia by the LA Times and the inaugural permanent collection, Cheech Collects, was voted one of the top 50 exhibitions in the world by Hyperallergic in 2022. The recipient of an American Association of Museums Standing Committee on Education Multicultural Fellowship and a Smithsonian Latino Museum Studies Program Fellowship, Fernández is a former member of Silicon Valley’s Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute. She received her BA in Chicana/o and ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and her MA in visual and critical studies from California College of the Arts.  

List of Past William Aguilar Cultural Arts Award Recipients:

  • 2023 Maria de Los Angeles
  • 2022 Elizabeth Acevedo, MFA
  • 2021 Javier Avila
  • 2020 Juan Felipe Herrera
  • 2019 John A. Lopez
  • 2018 Laurie Ann Guerrero
  • 2017 Ana Castillo
  • 2016 Juan Felipe Herrera
  • 2015 Rolando Hinojosa-Smith
  • 2014 Octavio Roca
  • 2013 Benjamin Saenz
  • 2012 Alma Flor Ada
  • 2011 Chon Noriega
  • 2010 Francisco Aragon
  • 2009 Bessy Reyna
  • 2008 Javier Áuila
  • 2007 Helena Maria Viramontes
  • 2006 Edward Gonzales
  • 2005 Cordelia Chávez Candelaria
  • 2004 Alberto Rios
  • 2003 Rudolfo Anaya
  • 2002 Juan Delgado
  • 2001 Teófilo Jaime Chahín
  • 1996 Nicholas Kanellos & Gary D. Keller