Mauricio Pineda

Featured image

Maricio Pineda holding a brochure he designed for Project NIA
Photo: Emily Pineda


School: Reilly Elementary School

Classes: Visual Art

MCA programs: Teacher Institute, Curriculum Slam

Extracurriculars: Mural Club, Act Out drama club, Peer Council, Restorative Practices chair, Project NIA volunteer, adjunct professor, activist

Why the MCA?

The MCA is truly a gift for our community. Not only does it explore innovative, current, and provocative artistic practices, it also reaches out to teachers and students from a very diverse range of communities. The MCA is a really democratic institution that proactively creates points of entry for everyone, there is no elitism or sumptuosity, but rather openness and welcome. In my opinion, most of the exhibitions act like a big mirror in front of humanity where the audience can engage through reflection, curiosity, and perception. The MCA also approaches art from a more exciting way because it focuses on ideas, materials, and processes that relate to our everyday life and our lifetime rather than traditional approaches that, although important, tend to lose context. In any case, we are very lucky that such a large institution continues to invite us all to participate.

What has participating in MCA Teacher Programs meant to you?

The best professional development that I have ever attended is the MCA Teachers Institute. Participating in this program has helped me to reinvigorate my teaching philosophy. The institute provided me with many opportunities for dialogue with other progressive practitioners, plenty of time to explore the galleries, and the unique opportunity to think, reflect, and/or have a very personal conversation around art, art education, society, and ideas in general. Additionally, the Teachers Institute helped me constantly flow between the immediate: my classroom, my lessons, my school; and the big picture: the effect of what I do or don't in my community and its connections to society now.

Every MCA teacher program is designed to be an interchange of experiences where teachers and the museum are invited to participate equally. Teachers are not a depository for information but rather an active structure to experience and grow knowledge. These kinds of practices have helped me create a more democratic space in my classroom, where art is an open door for every student to participate by valuing their ideas, feelings, and points of view.


Mauricio Pineda teaches visual art at Reilly Elementary School for grades K–8. He is the chair of the Arts Department at his school and also runs a Mural Club that tries to create pieces with positive messages for the community. Additionally, with his creative and life partner, Emily, he codirects the school’s drama group Act Out, a project that explores and analyzes issues that affect our community through Theater of the Oppressed methods and popular education in order to create multimedia productions that denounce, expose, or/and open opportunities for community reflection. Mauricio is also the chair of Reilly’s Restorative Practices, an initiative that tries to find alternatives to the suspension and detention of students. His main focus besides classroom talking circles is the Peer Council program. This program has been highly recognized by CPS’s Office of Social Emotional Learning, which granted Mauricio the opportunity to present at various workshops for teachers and community organizations, and also to participate in a roundtable discussion with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s Chief of Police, and community leaders to discuss Restorative Practices in Chicago Public Schools and marginalized areas.

Outside of Reilly, Mauricio is an activist who has volunteered for Project NIA, where he has illustrated pamphlets and created posters and various works of art, as well as participated in panels, discussions, communiversities, and art shows to support a stop to youth incarceration in favor of community-based means of accountability for violence and crime.

Mauricio is also the adjunct professor for the peace, justice and conflict studies program at DePaul University, where he teaches two experimental/self exploratory courses: Community Building through the Arts and Looking Inside to Recognize the Other.