In Conversation with Carolina Alvarez-Mathies: A Proponent for Salvadoran Artists and Culture
I'm so excited to converse with Carolina Alvarez-Mathies, she is a female art leader on the rise and is ascending to the top with grace, kindness, charm, and style. Formerly at El Museo del Barrio, serving as Head of Communications, she oversaw digital and social strategies for blockbuster shows such as Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion and The Illusive Eye. A native of El Salvador, Alvarez-Mathies is now a New York transplant active and dedicated to her philanthropic art endeavors, such as Y.ES Contemporary, Glasswing, among others. I chat with the Salvadoran stunner regarding her art career in New York, organizations close to her heart, and why female professional solidarity is always a win.
Carolina Alvarez-Mathies: One of my main responsibilities is to amplify our voice on a local and global scale by putting effective communications strategies in place. In overseeing marketing, press and digital, I ensure our day to day tasks are informed by our long term vision. My first project with Creative Time was Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy. It was through working with Pedro that I truly realized how much I enjoy working directly with artists, an opportunity that was new to me coming from a museum environment. Being privy to an artist’s point of view first hand, and then owning the responsibility to amplify their vision to our audience in a way that both leaves their vision intact, but also embodies our essence is a task I very much enjoy. In my mind I’m almost acting as a translator.
What were some professional and personal rewards you walked away with during your time as Head of Communications at El Museo del Barrio?
I was first introduced to El Museo del Barrio in 2012 by Yaz Hernandez who was looking to form El Museo del Barrio’s Junior Board. I became a founding member and grew quite fond of the institution. At the time I had an internal battle of leaving my country [El Salvador] behind, one that needs a global voice, by becoming involved with El Museo I found a way to do that... Fast forward to July 2014, El Museo had a new director, Daniel Veneciano, I soon became one of his first hires to head the communications department. I was brought in to strategically revamp and reposition the institution. Having the opportunity, and trust of the board to do that has been by far one of the most rewarding professional experiences yet. During my time at El Museo, I had pleasure of working with passionate colleagues who strive day in and day out to amplify the voices of Latin American and Latino artists, as well as with El Museo’s board. Working with Maria Eugenia Maury, El Museo’s current board chair was utterly inspiring. I thrive under strong female leadership, and have been lucky to consistently work with visionary women, from Maria Eugenia to now working with Katie at Creative Time. Having strong female role models in my career path has made me realize how vital it is to mentor younger generations, and to be kind and generous when it comes to your time and resources.
"The moment I left El Salvador 15 years ago, I knew I was bringing with me the great responsibility to act as an ambassador to my country and to help be its voice."
I’m really excited to learn more about Y.ES Contemporary, an organization dedicated to promoting and nurturing artists of the Salvadoran diaspora. As a board member, in what ways do you help execute Y.ES Contemporary’s agenda?
The moment I left El Salvador 15 years ago I knew I was bringing with me the great responsibility to act as an ambassador to my country and to help be its voice. Y.ES Contemporary allows me opportunity to do just that in a field that I not only work in, but am deeply passionate about. At the moment Y.ES is the only program dedicated to bringing Salvadoran contemporary artists in El Salvador to the international fore, we create opportunities for them to advance their practice and engage with artists, curators, collectors, gallerists and the media within and outside El Salvador. This vision is materialized via exhibitions, art trips, artist academies, talks, grants, and now online studio visits. One of my main focuses with Y.ES is to aid with support of the program and our communications strategies, as well as identifying key opportunities for us to participate in. One of the first ways I was involved was in the support of our first artist academy where we brought artists couple Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood, along with Deanna Haggag who was then at the front of The Contemporary Baltimore, along with her team; together they met with six Salvadoran artists at my home in Lake Coatepeque and provided insight into alternative research methodologies, conceptualizing public works of art, and the “how to’s” of showing work. This program is one of the pillars of Y.ES and are excited to announce that this fall we will have Pedro Reyes and Tania Bruguera joining us.
"Working with Maria Eugenia Maury, El Museo’s current board chair was utterly inspiring. I thrive under strong female leadership, and have been lucky to consistently work with visionary women, from Maria Eugenia to now working with Katie at Creative Time. "
On International Women’s Day (March 8, 2017) you were a featured speaker along with other female art world influencers at Young Women in the Arts panel in New York. What were some of your talking points?
One of the questions that struck me most, perhaps because we were celebrating International Women’s Day, was the question of what it’s like to be a woman in the art world. Or perhaps it's because I always have had a hard time with this question, for there are two sides of it, my personal experience and the broader reality of the industry. I am acutely aware that there is a vital need to address gender inequality. In the arts specifically we can take a deep look at women artists, their lack of recognition and exposure, and at larger issues like equal compensation and maternity leave policies. When I was at El Museo, Daniel, our director, started the women's series, a pledge to show a solo show of a Latin woman artist once a year for 5 years, it is a commitment not many institutions had or have had, since even museums we were outmatched with in terms of size and funding… Now personally, I have a problem subscribing to these terms… successful woman, woman in arts, Latin woman in the arts… Once I myself adopt these terminology I give in to it in a way. Also, my experience is different because until now I have never felt that my being a woman has hindered me from getting to where I am now, yes it’s been a lot of hard work and dedication. I will not say it has been easy, but its hardships and sacrifices like leaving my country and family behind have little to do with my gender.
"Having strong female role models in my career path has made me realize how vital it is to mentor younger generations, and to be kind and generous when it comes to your time and resources."
In your own words, what does inclusive feminism mean to you and why is it important?
To me, Inclusive Feminism means empowering all women from around the world, regardless of their backgrounds. To me that means ensuring women in developed countries have a choice of what to do with their bodies, and their voices are heard and respected, and that we work toward closing the wage gap and provide equal opportunities. It also means that we have the responsibility to look at less developed nations, and ensure women and children get access to health and education and have the opportunity to live a fulfilled and happy life.
Follow Carolina Alvarez-Mathies on Instagram: @calvarezmathies