Bringing International Experience Back to Bogotá’s Teatro Villa Mayor: In Conversation with General Manager Álvaro Martínez

Alvaro Martinez

Alvaro MartinezÁlvaro Martínez is a graduate of the MMIAM programme’s first cohort in 2014. Prior to his studies, he had worked for many years in arts management in Bogotá, primarily with the Ministry of Culture, developing arts education programmes and other related projects. He has always been an active volunteer in the Bogotá arts community. Laura Adlers interviewed Álvaro to learn about his new leadership position in his native country.


Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

I met François Colbert through Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez at Universidad de los Andes, where I first learned of the MMIAM programme. I was intrigued by living and studying in different cities, the possibility of learning about different arts management models in different countries. I was very driven by the mix of academia and practical knowledge and bringing this all back to Colombia.

Where are you currently working and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am the General Manager of Teatro Villa Mayor, a small theatre in southern Bogotá built 20 years ago. It has always been an artists’ hub, mostly for emerging artists. It is a public house, but has never had an operational model for functioning professionally and in a sustainable, long-term way. It was built by the local city hall of one of the 20 localities of Bogotá and I work with them to run the theatre.  For the past year and a half, I have been developing a new operational model for the theatre, upgrading the technical and structural framework and developing programming for the local community. I am in effect taking an artists’ centre and working to establish theatre and dance companies in residence here.

Teatro Villa Mayor (photo Johanna Abril)

Teatro Villa Mayor (photo Johanna Abril).

Which courses / What aspect(s) of the programme were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

The most important thing was the site visits, the experience of meeting with the managers of so many arts organizations in the different cities.  I learned so much from those experiences and got a lot of insight to bring back to Bogotá.  The programme itself teaches a wide range of courses needed in arts management, including strategic planning, marketing, finance and accounting, research.  I took something from all of the courses and apply most of it on a regular basis.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

I don’t know if you can separate the personal from the professional. You have to adapt to different cultures and management models, different mindsets and different ways of working styles and lifestyles. This adaptability is an invaluable skill both personally and professionally.

Which campus was the most memorable for you and why?

Let me be diplomatic and say each place had special qualities. I liked them all and I took something special away from each. Actually, being from Bogotá, I found it very interesting to return with the cohort to my city, having lived and studied in Dallas and Montreal at that point. It was interesting to see how my colleagues reacted and what they noticed about Bogotá. They were visiting my home and viewing it as a case study, which was very interesting to experience. For me, it was like I was looking at my city with different eyes, through the international lens, with this new international experience and knowledge, and this was invaluable.

Street Art Tour in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

Street Art Tour in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers).

How did your studies in international arts management change your perspective of arts management practices in Colombia?

I returned home with lots of new ideas and perspectives and I now reflect on arts management practices with new eyes. I will try something new, see how it goes, change something if it needs changing, reflect again to see if things are working better, and so on.  Of  course, I have a lot of insight from my studies and have a lot of material to refer to and apply to what I am doing now.

What is one of the greatest challenges facing arts managers in Colombia today?
How do you think these challenges need to be addressed and by whom?

In Colombia, the relationship between culture and social development has always been very important. This is something we need to acknowledge and keep supporting in many ways. But these are days in which we also have to pay attention to all the dimensions of the relationship between culture and economic development. We still have a lot of work to do to create powerful business models and ways of doing things that will help the cultural economy become stronger, more sustainable and meaningful. This can only be addressed by arts managers working with communities, artists and governments to help create and improve these business models, which is something I am starting to do at the theatre.

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in Colombia and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

It is a very interesting time in Bogotá and Colombia right now. I see a lot of emerging performing artists creating companies with new and innovative programming, in all performing arts, but especially in music. We should really be paying attention to what is happening with the music scene in Colombia.  The same pertains to theatre and dance. Emerging and experienced artists are more willing to take risks and try new things, including getting involved with other sectors which are not traditionally associated with the arts. I see such opportunities with the development of new cultural venues for presenting the thriving performing arts scene. There are also beautiful opportunities to help social projects working with culture and arts education. Savvy arts managers are needed in some underserved regions to help implement these kinds of programmes.

MMIAM 2013-2014 (archival photo)

MMIAM 2013-2014 (archival photo).

Arts Management and the Creation of Social Values: Exploring Bogotá with Professor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Jaime Ruiz-GutiérrezProfessor Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Administration at the Universidad de los Andes, where he teaches Culture Management. He has a PhD in Mathematics applied to Social Sciences and has conducted extensive research of arts and culture organizations using a rigorous approach based on numbers, indexes and indicators. Professor Ruiz-Gutiérrez is the coordinator of the campus abroad programme in Bogotá, Colombia. Laura Adlers interviewed him to learn more about the cultural sector in Bogotá and what MMIAM students experience during their visit.

The MMIAM students visit Bogotá at the end of their term in Montréal before starting the final phase of study in Milan. You are the architect of the Bogotá programme, which has evolved over the last five years.  What do the students experience during their visit?

First of all, I try to show the students experiences which demonstrate the high impact that arts management has on our society in terms of the creation of social and cultural values, as opposed to focussing on economic impact. Most of the cultural activities in our communities demonstrate a change of priorities: first, how arts management generates social value and then, how it generates economic value. In the case of Colombia, our communities and our arts managers have learned a lot from concrete experiences which have taken place in our country over many years, and these experiences determine management priorities.

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers)

Street Art in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Another element that I share with the students is the importance of the social environment and its impact on management processes. In Colombia, the majority of initiatives and management processes developed by arts and culture organizations have mostly been led by the private sector or individual efforts. The Colombian state, despite having developed a cultural policy with the objective of promoting the cultural sector, has scarce resources and therefore culture is not considered a priority compared with other social sectors such as health, education, or security.

These individuals and the communities leading cultural initiatives develop strategies that are sometimes quite creative, to maintain and strengthen their artistic and cultural activities.  In Colombia, for example, there are many popular festivals in many different communities, some of which have existed since as far back as the 19th century. These festivals have grown – in size, budget and quality of programming – with minimal support from the state. These artistic and cultural experiences are very interesting as research subjects. It’s valuable to know the types of strategies that helped develop these communities and the sustainibility of these popular festivals to the point that they have become well known in their regions, with some of them developing into real enterprises.

Another experiential element that speaks to Colombian character is the importance of social relationships in daily life. This element makes it very easy for the students to have spontaneous conversations with the many people the students meet during their visit.

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Mónica Muñoz and François Colbert in Bogota (photo Laura Adlers).

There have been several students from Colombia in the MMIAM program. Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector in your country?

In Colombia and in Latin America in general, the management of arts and cultural projects and organizations has traditionally been managed in an intuitive way, by artists or people close to the sector. However, cultural activity has been gaining considerable importance in many qualitative and quantitative dimensions, requiring a professionalization of the sector and its management processes.

Additionally, the Colombian Constitution was changed in 1991; the previous one was written in 1886. In this new constitution, Colombia is defined as a multicultural and multiethnic society. This important change made the concept of culture a central element of the definition of the Colombian nationality. This led to the implementation of the Culture Law in 1997 and gave birth to the Ministry of Culture, the National System of Culture and the proposition of a good number of cultural policies. Under this new constitution, culture is conceived not only as a right, but as a resource requiring rigorous management processes.

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

National Library in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers).

I believe that the international perspective of MMIAM is fundamental. The programme provides the knowledge of other arts management practices in different countries. These different perspectives  contribute to the restructuring and strengthening of the cultural sector in Colombia. This international vision also allows students to compare the development of our arts organizations to a globalized world. At the same time, our own cultural expression contributes to enrich the cultural sector on an international level.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Colombia which are leading the new wave in arts management?

Arts management has been led and developed by countries with advanced economies. Their educational and research institutions have established the principles of what we know as arts management. However, arts management activities have always been happening in Colombia, just intuitively, and they have only recently become academic topics, at the university level.

I believe the experience of arts management in Latin America can make contributions to the field in the following ways: the first one is, as I mentioned earlier, the exploration of arts management as a source of value creation from various non-economical perspectives. These are valuable perspectives of dual societies, as with most of the Latin American countries. The second one is related to the concept of “cultural responsibility”, corresponding with the establishment of cultural or artistic projects organized in and for vulnerable communities.

An example of this would be the development of a project for a vulnerable community in Bogotá which would create economic value and help provide for the community’s basic needs. In some cases, these projects generate conflict with the cultural structure of the community. For example, a change of traditional roles in the families, or some form of non-traditional work. In general, if projects do not take into account the cultural elements of the community, they will often not succeed.

François Colbert, Philip Grant and I have published an article “Arts Management in Developing Countries: A Latin American Perspective,” International Journal of Arts Management, Special Edition Latin America, Printemps 2016, p. 6-17, in which we address these issues.

Many alumni of the MMIAM program say that their time in Bogotá left the most profound impression about the relationship between culture and politics and the power of culture to heal a nation.  Can you comment on this?

The historical evolution of Colombia and the present-day situation have reaffirmed the enormous importance that art and culture have in the country, as a strategy for the cohesion and integration of society, after a good number of years of conflict and violence. There are many projects and experiences, some more successful than others, which have been developed from this perspective. Experiences in terms of music, visual, scenic, and plastic arts, etc. have been managed in a creative way with the communities most affected by the conflict, and with the population in general. In this sense, academia has a very important mission in terms of collecting, analyzing and understanding these experiences in order to achieve a greater impact on our society.

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers)

Los Andes University (photo Laura Adlers).

Arts Management in Developing Countries: A Latin American Perspective (Abridged)

National Centre for Historical Memory in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

by Jaime Ruiz-Gutiérrez, Philip Stanley Grant, François Colbert

Mainstream academia has focused on Arts Management in developed countries. Therefore, shaped by the different artistic, cultural and social contexts in developing economies, this research proposes a new model to help understand Arts Management in Latin America.

In Latin America, a lot of arts and culture organizations can rely only on their own cultural identity as a source of value creation. This is the case for music and other manifestations of social identity, such as work, social relations, popular representations, and heritage — all of which are culturally rooted and fulfill an indispensable economic function for the community.

In most artistic experiences, the “social contributions” (Sommer, 2006) which have been produced through intuitive and spontaneous management processes are of great importance and impact for their respective communities. These processes, in which social value is created, require, in many cases, a precondition for the creation of economic value. At a community level, three different types of impact can be identified: 1) the construction of social capital; 2) the creation of identity; and 3) the improvement of image and status.

This article presents three cases that, without being exhaustive, show the distinctive elements of the proposed arts management model for Latin American countries.

First, the three cases share the fact that they are bottom-up processes and, to a large extent, it is the communities that are being managed that guide and determine the management processes’ evolution and development. These processes are participative and conflictive, involving a trial and error strategy that is another distinctive element. This practice, in turn, gives way to a process of organisational learning, an administrative skill developed in order to institutionalise and integrate these processes in their social dynamic.

A high percentage of the success of these processes is determined by the social value “prompted” in the respective communities, in complex circumstances of unmet basic needs. The communities’ environment, based on “forced autonomy”, pressured them to find their own solutions. The above implies the development of competitive advantages, based on their characteristics as social groups, which mould their lifestyles.

Finally, the processes achieve the management goal which is the institutionalisation of the given promoted activity whereby art and culture are the instruments used to promote the legitimacy required to achieve such institutionalisation. In the three cases, the activities described became institutional reference points in their specific contexts.

A Latin American Perspective - Proposed Model

A Latin American Perspective – Proposed Model

Based on the identification of the arts as a factor of value creation, it is necessary to systematise the different management processes which made possible the design, production and distribution of the goods and services. The perspective described in this paper is experiential and community-based, with important impacts on the respective society. These intuitive management processes are aimed primarily at the satisfaction of urgent socioeconomic needs and the communities’ skills are the basic elements of these cultural manifestations.

National Centre for Historical Memory in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers)

National Centre for Historical Memory in Bogotá (photo Laura Adlers), an example that could illustrate one of the article’s three cases: “Civic Culture: Bogotá and its transformation”.

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Special Edition – Latin America – Spring 2016.

Leading an Exciting New Initiative for the MMIAM Program in India and China: In Conversation with MMIAM Professor Andrea Rurale

Professor Andrea Rurale with the program coordinator in SMU Melissa Keene, Professors Alex Turrini, François Colbert and James Hart, and the students of the MMIAM's 6th cohort.

Professor Andrea Rurale (Photo: personal archives)Andrea Rurale is Director of the Master in Arts Management and Administration (MAMA) program and Professor of Marketing and Heritage Management at SDA Bocconi in Milan. He is also the Regional President of FAI Lombardia (The National Trust for Italy) and is President of the Monteverdi Conservatory in Cremona. Laura Adlers interviewed Professor Rurale recently to find out more about projects he is passionate about and recent developments in the MMIAM program.


SDA Bocconi in Milan is the third phase of the MMIAM program, from the end of April until the beginning of July. In addition to the study program in Milan, you are leading an exciting new initiative with the next cohort. Can you tell us more about the plans for phase three in 2019?

Yes, it is very exciting! There will now be the possibility of exploring two more countries, starting with the 2018-2019 cohort. Instead of coming directly to Milan for the third phase of the MMIAM program, the students will join the International Program in Arts Management (IPAM) which SDA Bocconi created at its campus in Mumbai. We have developed a new international program in arts management which consists of approximately  ten days in Mumbai, ten days in Delhi, ten days in Beijing and ten days in Milan, with additional tours to other Italian cities. The course in consulting management will be taught in Mumbai, the performing arts management course will be taught in Delhi, and heritage management will be taught in Milan. The students will visit many cultural organizations while they are in India, China and Italy, as they do in Colombia.

Group picture of the MMIAM's 6th cohort and some professors

Professor Andrea Rurale with the program coordinator in SMU Melissa Keene, Professors Alex Turrini, François Colbert and James Hart, and the students of the MMIAM’s 6th cohort (Photo: personal archives).

The mutual cooperation with SMU in Dallas, HEC Montréal and SDA Bocconi is very strong, which is why we are also able to bring the MMIAM program to Mumbai. The idea is to explore the fields of performing arts (festivals, theatres) and heritage (museums, archeological sites, monuments, temples) in the Indian system, but with a deep outlook to the European and Italian system. When we will be in Delhi, for example, we will conduct our courses at the Italian Institute of Culture in the compound of the Italian Embassy. Students will learn about theoretical and practical approaches to arts management by visiting museums, art galleries, festivals and other institutions in Mumbai and Delhi which are important for the promotion of the arts in India.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

An international perspective is very important when we study arts management, mainly because each country has its peculiarities which no one would understand without a deeper experience. It is very important for arts managers to be open to the international market as a whole, beyond the cultural sector, to understand how cultural institutions function in different countries, in their economies, in their societies. It is also important, from a curatorial perspective, to understand the current trends in different parts of the world, what is working and what is not working, how art is treated in China, Russia, the US and New Zealand, for example.

What innovative ideas have you observed in the cultural sector in Italy which are leading the new wave in cultural management?

For sure there are windows opening to the international community. There are new directors of museums that are trying to manage cultural institutions with all of the Italian constraints. On the one hand, the Italian public system is so stuck in bureaucracy that even directors coming from the US or Germany with international perspectives are not able to survive the bureaucracy of the Italian cultural and public institution. On the other hand, everyone is talking about this now, how we should be approaching cultural products, how we should convey the cultural message to the people, the importance of culture in the Italian system, the fact that it is a primary need for Italians to enjoy art and culture and therefore the necessity for a strong, well-run cultural sector is very important and urgent.  In response to this, in Italy we now have the new “super-directors” who run these institutions, which is a new concept and which is proving very successful in bringing the importance of Italian culture to the people. (Ed. note: In 2015, the Italian minister of culture announced 20 museum directors who were to become “super-directors” of some of Italy’s most important institutions and heritage sites, and were granted full financial autonomy.)

You are also the Regional President of FAI Lombardia (The National Trust for Italy). Can you explain what the foundation does and the kinds of projects you are currently working on?

FAI represents an important pillar in Italian heritage preservation since it was founded in 1975, with the goal of attracting the private sector to support the restoration of heritage sites and opening them to the public for private events. These sites would otherwise be abandoned and fall into disrepair.  FAI restores heritage properties which have been bequeathed to them or which have been supported by private donations. These are most often private homes. We study the history of the properties and convey their stories and the spirit of the properties to the public. These stories are important, not only from the artistic point of view, but because they tell the story of the Italian bourgeoisie that lived in Milan in the 1920s and 1930s. FAI operates on a budget of 28 million Euro, and owns 53 properties, 30 of those are open to the public, many are currently being restored.

Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan (Photo: F. Clerici).

Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan (Photo: F. Clerici – © FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano).

Tell us more about the Monteverdi Conservatory in Cremona.

Cremona is famous for its importance as a city where violins have been made for centuries. Violin-making has been recognized as an art which must be protected under UNESCO’s intangible heritage designation. As the President of the Board, I meet with many people who want to study music in Cremona, because of this rich history. It is very interesting, because I experience in a very tangible way the social and cultural impact of music on the Italian community. Nowadays, Cremona is investing a lot in the promotion of music and, thanks to this, there is an increase in visitors coming to spend time in the city, investing in knowledge about music and culture.

MMIAM Graduate Amanda Vojvodin-Dargenio Launches Career in the Fashion Industry in Milan

Amanda Vojvodin (Photo: Lively Creative Co.)

Amanda Vojvodin (Photo: Lively Creative Co.)Amanda Vojvodin-Dargenio graduated from the second cohort of the MMIAM program in 2015. She had recently completed undergraduate studies at the University of Ottawa in theatre and arts management, and wanted to broaden her knowledge of arts management on an international scale in pursuit of a career in the fashion industry. She is now working in Milan as the Events and Marketing Manager at Louisiane HCP Group, a branch of Hermès International. In a recent interview with the Canadian native, we discussed her MMIAM experience and her new career in Milan.


What are your primary responsibilities as Events and Marketing Manager at Louisiane?

At Louisiane we sell leather to the fashion industry, so I attend four international fairs per year, twice in Milan and twice in Paris. I also manage client events in various cities in Italy, in addition to overseeing social media and marketing campaigns. I speak Italian and French all day long!

Amanda at a work event she was managing.

Amanda at a work event she was managing (Photo: personal archives).

Which MMIAM courses were the most valuable to you for your career and why?

Definitely all of the marketing courses from HEC Montréal, which I use every day. The fact that I studied at SDA Bocconi is a big plus for me here in Italy. I also tap into what I learned in JoLynne Jensen’s fundraising course in Dallas regularly, since this is a big part of event planning.

What did you gain personally and professionally from living and studying in four different countries with students from around the world?

I certainly gained a broader perspective of what working in the arts means in each of the four countries..  Canada is very bureaucratic. In Italy, it is more art for art’s sake and just making things happen because we serve the art.

The international cohort made it very interesting and at times more challenging, as we sometimes had different work ethics, different ideas of time management, etc and we had to make it work somehow, so this was a good lesson for the real world and we learned a lot from each other. In the real work world, great teams need different dynamics with different skills and approaches in order to get great results.

Which campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

Dallas!  I really loved it there. Dallas was such an unexpected experience and it was the first campus in our study year.  I would go back for a work contract in a heartbeat.  It was such an interesting place, so different from Canada.

MMIAM 2nd Cohort in front of Dallas AT&T Performing Arts Centre

MMIAM 2nd Cohort in front of Dallas AT&T Performing Arts Centre (Photo: personal archives).

What are the current trends in the cultural sector in Italy and what new opportunities are emerging for arts managers as a result?

Culturally, I think Italy is becoming more international.  More and more I see Italian cultural organizations adopting American business structures and methods of administration.

What kinds of innovative developments are happening in the fashion industry right now that are worth checking out?

Google has a new virtual fashion museum – “We Wear Culture” which was developed in collaboration with many of the great museums and fashion houses. It brings the world of fashion to people everywhere.  It is an invaluable resource for people working in or interested in the fashion industry.

You entered the MMIAM program with the goal of working in the fashion industry, which was an unconventional approach compared to many other people who apply to the program.  What would you like to share with other potential candidates who are wondering if this is the right program for them?

I think it is important for potential candidates to know that the program isn’t just for those who are interested in working in arts management in the not for profit sector. Much of the course content is geared towards this sector, with some courses focussing more on for profit cultural industries.  I came into the program always knowing I wanted to work in the fashion industry, which is increasingly recognized as a cultural industry. I was still able to focus many of my course projects and assignments on the fashion industry and my career goals.  I use the knowledge I gained in the MMIAM program every day, particularly in marketing and fundraising, and the analytical skills and international experience are invaluable to the work I am doing now.


Board Composition and Organizational Performance in the Cultural Sector: The Case of Italian Opera Houses (Abridged)

Teatro alla Scala (Photo: Frances Craven).

by Paola Dubini and Alberto Monti

The most significant event of opera houses in Italy is the reform of 1996, transforming opera houses from government bodies into foundations with boards of directors, budget autonomy, and responsibility for hiring and firing. As a consequence of the reform, the general manager is appointed by the board rather than by the ministry and the local mayor serves as president of the board. Additionally, private contributions to the theatre’s endowment are set at a minimum of 12%. In Italian opera houses, the size, representation and role of the board are defined by law; therefore, the degree of freedom left to different stakeholders in the composition of the board relies very much on the personal characteristics of each board member.

In this article, we address the issue of sustainability of Italian opera houses, by focusing on the relationship between board composition and performance, on the assumption that a functioning board is instrumental to engaging stakeholders and donors in a mutual reputation-building exercise as it addresses issues emerging from outside the organization and affecting its reputation. In order to do this, we identify the following roles within the board of directors: artists, controllers, cultural managers, influential people and other specialists. Our research is based on the analysis of 14 Italian Lyric and Symphonic Foundations, between 2001 and 2012.

Teatro alla Scala (Photo: Frances Craven).

Teatro alla Scala (Photo: Frances Craven).

Our findings suggest that boards do matter and that their composition affects the ability of opera houses to reach out to different categories of revenue provider. For instance, controllers and influential people both affect theatres’ global performance and earned income. We found no effect of the proportion of influential people on both public and private income, although we did find a relationship between influential people and public income.

Similarly, we hypothesized that cultural managers and other specialists influence earned income, since they might have the competencies necessary to help theatres maximize this type of revenue. This hypothesis was not confirmed.

An interesting result concerns the proportion of artistic profiles on boards of directors in explaining both public and private funding. In line with expectations, the presence of those with artistic profiles on the board was negatively correlated to private funding.

Yet our results also indicate a non-significant effect of a high proportion of board members with an artistic background on public financing, although artistic quality is a specific driver of public funding in Italian opera houses.

One of our findings concerns the relationship between competence diversity among board members and within the board overall. Although all board functions are performed at the group level, specialization at the individual level could matter. Different board members with different profiles will contribute to board activities in different ways. Board members might be individually diverse – each one having several non-mutually exclusive profiles – while at the aggregate level the board might have a degree of homogeneity in terms of profiles represented. Our results indicate that skill diversity in individual board members and at the board level impacts performance in different ways.

Finally, in the case of earned income, the gross domestic product at a regional level positively and significantly affects private funds, although the magnitude is small (€247). Additionally, the presence of new members on the board seems to strongly and positively affect theatres’ ability to raise private funds. New members increase theatres’ ability to attract private funds by approximately €182,000.

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 20, Number 2, Winter 2018.