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

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).

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