Amalia Mesa-Bains

Amalia Mesa-Bains

biography & bibliography

Amalia Mesa Bains is an artist and cultural critic who has worked to define Chicano and Latino art in the United States and in Latin America. Mesa-Bains is best known for her large-scale installations and interpretations of traditional Chicano altars and ofrendas.

Her work explores Mexican American women’s spiritual practices, addresses colonial and imperial histories, the recovery of cultural memory, and their roles in identity formation. She also uses aesthetic strategies to as ways to express experiences historically associated with Mexican American women and as sites for Chicana feminist reclamation. Mesa-Bains was born in Santa Clara, CA. 



  • Givers Award.

    2016. Hispanics in Philanthropy.  

  • Distinguished Woman Artist Award.

    2013. Fresno Art Museum, Fresno CA 

  • Macondo Writers Workshop Award.

    2010. Milagro Recipient in the name of Gloria Anzaldua.

  • College Art Association Committee on Women in the Arts

    2008. 13th Annual Recognition Award.

  • Visionary Women Award

    2007. Moore College of Art and Design  

  • Legacy Award; International Latino Academy of the Arts

    2003. Presented by the Mexican Heritage Plaza

  • Fifth Annual Women Who Could be President Honor

    1996. League of Women Voters of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 

  • Ernesto Galarza Award for Excellence

    1995. Stanford Center for Chicano Research, Stanford University, Palo Alto,   California 

  • Women of Hope

    Latinas Abriendo Camino, Bread and Roses Cultural Project, Inc., New York, NY

  • Volunteer of the Year Award

    Missions Girls Services YWCA, San Francisco, CA 

  • Women’s Caucus For Art Honor Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Visual Arts Profession

    Women’s Caucus for Art, Philadelphia, PA 

  • SFSU Alumni Hall of Fame

    1994. SFSU Alumni Association, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

  • MacArthur Fellowship Award

    1993. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL

  • Distinguished Service to the Field Award

    Association of Hispanic Artists, New York, NY

  • The Golden Palm Award

    1991. INTAR Hispanic Arts Center, New York, NY

  • Distinguished Working Woman Award

    1990. The Chicana Foundation of Northern California

  • Artist Award

    The Association of American Cultures, Washington, DC

  • National Endowment for the Arts Panelist

    Expansion Arts Panel, Artists in Residence Panel, Visual Arts Panel, Overview Panel

  • Award of Honor

    1989. Mission Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

  • Mayoral Appointment to the San Francisco Arts Commission

    San Francisco, CA

Professional History

Director, The Institute for Visual & Public Art

California State University, Monterey Bay, Seaside, CA

1997 - 2014

Senior Research Associate

Far West Labs, San Francisco, CA


Project Manager, Consent Decree Staff Development

Division for Integration, San Francisco Unified School District


Producer/Host, Community Affairs

"Latin Tempo", KPIX-TV Channel 5, San Francisco, CA



M.A. Interdisciplinary Education, School of Education

San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA


B.A., Painting, San 

San Jose State University, San Jose, CA