The Challenge in Forging Connections: Bring it On!

by Pamela López Rodríguez

in Global Citizenship

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It was September 2009 when I first sat in class at Columbia University. My professor stood in front of a diverse group of aspiring art administrators and popped the question: “Who here is an international student?” A few hands started to raise, including mine of course – the girl from Chile. “Well,” she continued – “don’t think you are going to be able to directly apply what you are about to learn in this program back in your home countries.  You will have to reframe according to context.” So it was. Five years have passed and I am back in Chile, still assembling the pieces.

As cliché as it may sound, studying abroad has been the best experience I have had in both my personal and professional lives. I must admit it was not easy. It took two scholarships (the Fulbright and the national granting program, Becas Chile), different standardized tests evaluating whether my English was seasoned enough to pursue a master’s program in the U.S. Despite the GRE trauma, that, believe me, every graduate student has, I was welcomed into a world of experience that definitively shaped my path in the arts management field.

Believe it or not, my first spark of interest in New York was not Broadway.  Rather, it was the many differences between the U.S. model of producing non-profit theatre and the practices of producing theatre in Chile and every other Latin American country. The funding mechanisms, policy objectives and issues, the different standards and dynamics within the theatre community, as well as, the status of artists and artistic organizations. All of this drew me to New York. I realized the challenges to collaborating with one another were right in front on my nose and I asked myself: How do we forge connections?  How do we create dialogue? How do we break the barriers in order to embrace collaboration between these two different paradigms?

Lately, I have been thinking and I am happy to confess I have a possible answer. Networking. That’s what I learned from working as an intern at TCG. Networking has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced while delving into and exchanging the knowledge I gained in the US and bringing it back to my community. As a TCG intern, I once told Kevin Bitterman, Associate Director of Artistic & International Programs: “I want to build this organization in Chile, I want to take the TCG experience back.” Even though I don’t have an organization as large and successful as TCG, I am thrilled to announce that last October the Red Salas de Teatro, a national network for theatre venues was created in Chile. So far, we have 22 members (from a universe of 44 venues in Santiago, Chile’s capital city) and we have already organized several “networking events” such as “The Night of Theatre” and the “Audience Engagement Seminar” in collaboration with Centro GAM (a large national venue for performing arts). Furthermore, last month, TCG was invited to present with Steppenwolf Theatre on TCG’s Audience (R)Evolution Program and I must admit that while sitting in the audience I thought: “This is the first step in forging new connections within the Chilean and the American community, this is networking.” So bring it on!

Pamela López Rodríguez is a former actress graduated from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Thanks to the support of Becas Chile and a Fulbright scholarship she attended the M.A in Arts Administration at Columbia University, New York (2011). In 2009, she was awarded by El Sabado Magazine as one of the 100 young leaders of the country. While studying in the US she was a TCG intern at the Artistic & International Programs. Currently she lives in Chile where she helds a possition as Head of the Outreach Programs at the Arts Faculty in Pontificia Universidad Católica, and also as a Director of development at Teatro UC and professor at the same university. She is also part of the founding group of the Red de Salas de Teatro, the recently created network for theatre venues in Chile.