Member Spotlight: Raquel Peula
Welcome to our Member Spotlight series, where we highlight some of the amazing work being done by ArtsBoston Member Organizations all over the Greater Boston area. Once a month, we choose a staff member from one of our Member Organizations and discuss why they do what they do and what being a part of the Boston arts and culture community means to them. If you would like to nominate someone you know (or perhaps yourself) to be considered for a Member Spotlight, please contact us.
This month, I had the pleasure of connecting with Raquel Peula, the Program Manager of the Arts Administration program at Boston University’s Metropolitan College.
You have lived and worked in many different countries. How have your travels impacted your career as an arts administrator?
I have always loved the arts but I didn’t fully realize how passionate I was about them until my first stay in Moscow, when I was 20 years old. There, I would often go to all kind of museums, to the ballet, the opera, to plays or any performance available every other night. As a student, the prices were very affordable and even though I didn’t understand a word of Russian at the time, I was very eager to experience different art forms. I became very curious about the behind-the-scene process to make those organizations function and what it takes to put the events together.
However, I didn’t learn what arts administrators do until a few years later during a trip to Kiev to visit a friend. He introduced me to the person who handled the cultural agenda of the Embassy of Spain and, for the first time, I heard the words “arts administration” together, better known as “cultural management” in Europe.
While in Russia, I worked in some cultural and educational institutions, which gave me the opportunity to organize events at a small scale. I also worked at the General Consulate of Spain in Moscow, which would allow me to learn how the public sector works. These experiences abroad influenced some important decisions I made later that have led to where I am today.
I became very curious about the behind-the-scenes process that makes those organizations function and what it takes to put events together.
After completing my residency in Russia, I returned to my native Spain and decided to study a graduate certificate in arts management, while working full-time at a multinational company as an office manager. Shortly after, I learned of a governmental program to specifically train arts managers who wanted to acquire international experience so I applied. The committee who interviewed me thought that I was well qualified for the post in the Embassy of Spain in Ukraine due to my previous work experience, my language skills, and my official studies.
During the two years I served as cultural manager, I organized more than 40 arts events. One of the most interesting ones was the opening of the Ukrainian Contemporary Art Festival Gogolfest, a large-scale event in Kiev’s city center with Spanish theatrical group La Fura dels Baus and Ukrainian quartet DakhaBrakha. Acting as the cultural attaché for the Embassy of Spain was the best job ever! After my term, I decided that I needed to get a MS degree in Arts Administration from a top university and continue develop my career as arts administrator, so I came to BU.
What does a day in the life as the program manager for Arts Administration at BU look like?
I do a variety of things so every day feels different. My job is basically to ensure the functioning of the department and the programs we offer. I manage the admission process, coordinate our international travel courses, and organize departmental events such as our orientation sessions. I also get to work on more strategic projects such as the establishment of international partnerships or the development of the curriculum for joint degree programs. However, one of the things I enjoy the most is providing advice and support to our students — they are full of enthusiasm, talent, and great ideas. I also love assisting our faculty. They were a great source of knowledge when I was a student in the Arts Administration program and now that I work in the department, I have had the opportunity to develop close relationships with many of them.
What was your role in the recent exhibition “Crossroads (Choreographies)” by artist Rosana Antolí?
I have curated this exhibition together with my BU colleague in Madrid, Fran Ramallo. As curators, we spent a lot of time talking about the concept of the exhibition, the message we wanted to convey, the pieces we needed to show… We decided to organize some other activities such as a discussion panel with specialists from different disciplines around the concept of motion, as well as workshops with the artist in which participants would create “collective choreography”, reinterpreting the exhibition space in relation to their bodies.
Of course, I was wearing my arts administrator hat all the time, since the ideas had to be implemented. This included planning out the logistics for everything, from raising the money to hammering nails at the exhibit installation. It has been a tremendously rewarding experience to see this project happen and I have been happy to see many people engaged in different ways, especially students.
In the new academic year, what are you most eagerly anticipating at Boston University? What should Boston keep an eye out for on Commonwealth Ave?
Boston University is continuously evolving and growing as a cultural institution. In the last couple of years, BU has been reshaping Comm. Ave. with the construction of new buildings such as the Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre and the newly created innovation hub the BUild Lab. I am excited to see how these changes impact the arts in the greater Boston community.
Boston University is continuously evolving and growing as a cultural institution.
There are many events happening on campus through the year: exhibitions, concerts, plays, talks, book presentations, masterclasses… The BU Arts Initiative event calendar is a good source to look for interesting and fun things to do around campus.
All photos appear courtesy of Mike Spencer.