CHICAGO (WLS) -- The National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen named Jose Ochoa as its new executive director Thursday.
The major announcement was made exclusively on ABC7 as the arts educator shared his vision for the future.
"It allows all of us to feel connected to our culture and who we are so that was just a very special feeling," Ochoa said.
Ochoa recalled the first time he visited the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen.
"Walking in here, it was one of the first times in my life, and I was an adult, that I felt seen," Ochoa said.
Now, he stands as the new executive director of a space dedicated to representing the lived Mexican experience through the arts.
"Even if folks come in and see something on the wall that might seem unfamiliar, right next to that, they're going to see a painting that's very familiar," Ochoa said.
He said there is power in the universality of the themes depicted: family, community, grief and joy. He vows that the vision of museum founder Carlos Tortolero, dedicated to sharing those human experiences through the lens of Mexican life, will continue to grow under his leadership.
"You don't need to know Spanish," Ochoa said. "You don't need to know English. You don't need to read. You can come in and your eyes will tell you."
This is more than just a job, right? It's an honor.Jose Ochoa
Central to his mission is opportunities for arts education. Ochoa formerly headed the Chicago High School for the Arts. 7
"I'm excited about the ways that young burgeoning artists will be able to continue to connect with us here," Ochoa said.
Ochoa announced an expansion of the arts education programming with the purchase of a fire house in Little Village from the city in the coming months.
Another central aspect to his mission is preserving free entry to the museum.
"A long as the founder is alive, as long as I'm alive, we will all work hard to make sure this place is accessible to anyone who wants to come in," Ochoa said. "This is more than just a job, right? It's an honor. It's a privilege. It's a responsibility. It's a gift. I'm just getting started."