Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese is the president and chief executive officer of the Naper Settlement, an interactive outdoor history museum dedicated to celebrating and preserving the history of the Naperville area. The Naper Settlement, located on more than 13 acres owned by a public trust through the city of Naperville, began with Caroline Martin Mitchell’s historic home and the adjoining 13 acres of land, and has expanded to include more than 25 historically significant structures from the area. Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese along with the Naperville Heritage Society, a nonprofit organization, work through a public-private partnership to transform the museum into a campus of life-long learning, discovery and fun for all people. Here the stories of its change-makers, historic undertakings, and the ties to the national story are preserved and used to educate about who we are and who we want to be as a community. The story is told digitally, but also through the preservation and living history experience of the site’s 31 buildings and structures, the vegetation and legacy of the Martin family. Caroline Martin-Mitchell’s gift of a perpetual charitable trust completely transformed the city.
While the settlement initially focused on the area’s settlement history from the early 1800s through 1931, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese was tasked with the transformation of the museum to include history from pre-settlement to today, as well as to increase attendance, and relevancy, and to become a national leader in the field. The museum has made tremendous progress in the last six years, including completing phase one of its capital campaign, “Never Settle,” in which the museum raised over $10 million to erect the Benck Family Agricultural Interpretive Center and Innovation Gateway. The center, with its STEM lab and exhibit space, will provide amazing opportunities to discover the intersections between science, technology, engineering and math, and the humanities. Innovation Gateway will be the new “front door” and education center, with curated state of the art 3D and 4D digital exhibits She is committed to expanding the museum’s offerings in informal and adult education, field trips, camps and community focused events. In addition to being a national leader in informal education, Naper Settlement is today a coveted event venue for weddings, concerts, corporate events and more.
As the chief executive officer of the Naper Settlement, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese is responsible for operations, strategic planning, fundraising, board management and building partnerships. Her leadership has helped transform the museum from a local settlement village into a nationally recognized and leading museum and learning center. Among the recent accomplishments is leading a consortium of six museums across the U.S. to examine de facto and de jure segregation in the Northern and Western United States through real estate practices. The project was funded in part through a prestigious National Leadership grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences. As a part of her work with the Naper Settlement, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese is a member of the American Association of Museums, the Illinois Association of Museums, and the American Association for State and Local History, and an advocate for the Springfield-area Museum Day and Museum Day on the Hill.
In addition to her leadership work with the museum, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese was previously a successful lawyer celebrating many years of practice with a focus on immigration law. Raised by Spanish and Ecuadorian immigrant parents, she was inspired by her childhood memories of learning English as a second language and serving as her mother’s translator for everyday events and during an extended divorce trial. Coming away from the trial feeling that her mother was not granted a fair outcome in court due to the barrier that her linguistic fluency presented, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese was dedicated to providing others the opportunity for fair advocacy and representation.
Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese graduated from Loyola University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and political science and was awarded a Doctor of Jurisprudence by the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in 1991. While practicing law, she has been a member of the Illinois State Bar Association’s international law section and also worked for 15 years at the American Bar Association, serving as a special assistant to the executive director and director of the International Liaison Office. A constant advocate for others in the legal profession, Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese began what became the American Bar Association’s Asian Law Initiatives, the African Law Initiative and directed the Latin American and Caribbean Law Initiative. She also served as the executive director of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese has been featured in The New York Times, “Today’s Inspired Latina,” and was the subject of “Hilary Decent: How Could a Woman Whose Life Story Reads Like an Adventure Novel Raise Anything but an Independent Daughter?” a 2021 feature profile in the Chicago Tribune and Naperville Sun. She has contributed to the “Today’s Inspired Latina” book currently in publication, and to “Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters.” Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese is a visionary who enjoys change and transformative work. She is a consummate advocate and leader in her community. Ms. Tamayo-Calabrese credits her success to her focus, vision and relentless pursuit of her goals, and hopes to continue to empower others to find the same success.