Interview with Alberto Lenz, new director of “El Nigromante” Cultural Center (Bellas Artes)
By Jade Arroyo
Alberto Lenz is a Mexican sculptor and painter whose work explores the use of logic-based systems in the process of design and creation. He has exhibited his work throughout Mexico and in such cities as New York, Toronto, Barcelona, Miami and Caracas. Since 2006, Lenz has been engaged in public art as means to improve urban spaces. Last March he took over the direction of the Bellas Artes, with Monica Hoth (creator of the International Puppet Festival) as assistant and academic coordinator.
Jade Arroyo: Most people think of you as an artist and architect. Is this your first time overseeing an art institution?
Alberto Lenz: No. I have a PhD in urbanism and cultural development and am a working artist. When it comes to handling this type of matter, my experience comes from 25 years ago, when I directed the Museum of the Alhóndiga in Guanjuato; then, I was co-founder of the first gallery of contemporary art in León, which was very successful. So, I also know about the commercial side of art. In Querétaro I have worked promoting the creation of public art spaces and the introduction of urban art in the city.
JA: Could you share the most important projects for this year?
AL: The most immediate are a marketing course given by Sergio Gómez Tagle from June 24 through 28, directed toward artists and cultural promoters, where people can learn the tools to structure cultural and artistic projects. The course will be free.
We’re featuring a retrospective of David Kestelbaum’s work. Then, we will stage a play commemorating Ignacio Allende’s death. And then in the summer (there won’t be summer courses for children this year because of renovations to the facilities) a variety of puppeteers will provide family entertainment in July. Finally, we’re planning to introduce our first digital art workshop.
JA: What kind of academic restructuring will happen?
AL: The idea is that El Nigromante is entering a new stage that will be mostly about a deep reflection on the cultural and social environment of San Miguel. The three main goals are promoting Mexican culture (both traditional and contemporary), professionalizing the classes and workshops and making them relevant to the curriculum, and including the public in our endeavors.
JA: Will the center be more accessible for events and festivals?
AL: One of the goals is to make the center an open space for the city and the community, more than just a federal building. The same institutions as in years before will be using the space, such the GIFF film festival, along with the municipality.
JA: Are there plans to incorporate art into public spaces in the city?
AL: We are in conversations with the municipality about this, and we’re getting good feedback from them. Perhaps the first thing we will do is to erect one of David Kestelbaum’s sculptures at the entrance to the center, which we hope might be permanent. That will be the first attempt to bring public art into the city. The sculpture will be a magnificent bull. We want to break the image of the building as an inaccessible place and incorporate the culture into the street.
JA: Is the renovation of the facilities finished?
AL: The architects are done. A very important part is the renovation of the Miguel Malo Auditorium. We hope work will be finished during the second half of this year. One plan of restoration is to create a library of art, a specialized center where historical files of work will be located in what used to be the cafeteria. We are considering opening a cafeteria elsewhere, but that has not yet been confirmed.
JA: What’s the upcoming plastic arts exhibit?
AL: A restrospective of sculptures by David Kestelbaum, a highly recognized artist.
JA: What’s your opinion about the arts and culture in the city?
AL: The arts community here is very active. Without being a big city, at its core it focuses a great creative and social energy. That must be harnessed and nurtured. The Bajío is generally a conservative area, but I think in context San Miguel has a great force of innovation and experimentation, and that must be supported. That’s quite clear to me.
JA: Will the center take initiatives to promote culture to all sectors of the public?
AL: Culture is an integral part of society. We want to be an urban space that is open for all sanmiguelenses. Other than being a place of culture, we seek to be a vibrant center that includes everyone, offering an innovative and modern approach and breaking the traditional schemes. Also, we’ll try to offer as many free activities as we can. In addition, we’re looking to establish a scholarship system, especially for those disciplines that require expensive materials and supplies.