Behind the Scenes at the DAM

7 Questions for a DAM Colleague: Madalena Salazar

Lindsey Housel, Denver Art Museum manager of digital engagement programs and master teacher for architecture, design, and graphics, Q&A's with Madalena Salazar, Latino programs coordinator.

Lindsey Housel: So, Madalena, you and I have been working together for a while now, and yet, I still feel like I don’t know much about you. Want to play, “Better know a DAM colleague?”

Madalena Salazar: Sounds like fun. I’m in the mood for sharing!

LH: Where were you living and working before landing in Denver?

MS: That’s a little hard to answer because the year prior to moving to Denver was a bit tumultuous. I had just returned to my home—literally, my childhood home living with my mom and Granny—in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I spent all my life. I returned home to spend time with family while doing some job searching—maybe some soul searching and deciding where I was going to pursue my career in museum education. I had just completed a year of working in education at the Brooklyn Museum in Brooklyn, New York, and had just finished my graduate degree in art history of Latin America from the University of New Mexico. I spent those months before landing in Denver, volunteering with El Centro de La Raza and a community arts organizations in Albuquerque. I was able to find freelance work as an outreach and volunteer coordinator for an organization dedicated to supporting local agriculture, and also worked a museum educator for the Albuquerque Museum. I moved here to Denver to continue my volunteer and freelance work and I took a break to become a new mom. Eventually, I was able to find my way into the Denver Art Museum last year!

LH: How’d we get so lucky to have you as our Latino programs coordinator? Name the top 3 things that sold you on taking this job?

MS: Top three?! Pues, ni modo—there were not even three things. I only needed one reason! I read the title and was like, “Es mío! That job will be mine!” Mira, I had wanted to work at the DAM since the beginning of my graduate program. At first, it was because I was drawn to the DAM's collection of Latin American arts. I studied the colonial period, and the biggest collection of art outside of Latin America is here— in our museum! ¿Te crees? As I started getting more into the museum profession, and as I learned more about museum education, the Denver Art Museum kept coming up over and over again. In part, I moved here just so I could work at this museum. I had applied to about 7 jobs before this one. But this one job description combined everything that I love, my skill set, and I had to apply. I had been working as a mentor for Latino students and as an educational activist to help institutions, like colleges and museums, become more inclusive and support the needs of diverse audiences. I was also an art historian of Latin America, and I had become a museum educator that was interested supporting Latino audiences. ¡Milagro! It was unbelievable how perfect it was! I am so happy to be doing this for our community!

LH:  Since my office is around the corner from you, I kinda hear and see you running up and down the hall, in deep conversation with Heather Nielsen, master teacher of native arts and new world, and head of community and family programs—a lot—and over at the museum. It seems like you’ve got something big in the works. What the heck are you doing?

MS: Wow… I feel like I should be in better shape doing all of that running around!  Lately I have been preparing for CelebrARTE. The final one of 2012 is CelebrARTE: Creativo on November 18. I just went to the art store to buy more paint, pencils, large canvas, and paper. I have also been typing away to get the word out. Plus, I have been on the phone a lot talking with our partner artists to make sure they feel good about what they have in the works for the program. 

LH: So I missed last month’s CelebrARTE with Beatriz. Are you going to have another taller this month? What’s it going to be and who’s the artist?

MS: This month is going to be fun—maybe a little messier than usual. We are working with Bob Luna, a well-known painter in our community. We are all very inspired by Becoming Van Gogh, and we are connecting with the exhibition. Bob and I have talked a lot about how the most inspiring point about Van Gogh is that he found his passion, and he worked at it, taught himself, and explored his creativity.  He found his community of artists, and learned from other artists and cultures. This is something we can all relate to—that we are all capable of being inspired and using our creativity to inspire others. So, we will explore some of his techniques to draw people, and then create a community portrait.  We will paint ourselves or someone else on a canvas that we will share. I am so excited to see the result!

LH: What’s been the most rewarding part of creating the CelebrARTE program?

MS: I don’t even know where to start.  It comes out of thoughts that I have had for several years—since at least 2007.  It developed out of conversations with teens in prepa in Mexico and artists, scholars and creative people that I worked with in New Mexico. It also developed out of experiencing things that were not so positive for our community.  However, the most rewarding part of CelebrARTE is not anything that I came up with. It is two things: first, the ability to have a museum of this stature committed to a program like this. That’s huge.  Secondly, it is the artists in our community that make this program come alive for me and for our audiences. This would be nothing without them. 

LH:  Last 3 songs you listened to?

MS: Well, while I was writing this blog I put my iPod on shuffle, and here’s what I heard.  Let me just say that music is my favorite thing in the world—more than art or history or my other favorite, food.  I could probably go on about the music that I love listening to, my taste is all over the place. 

  1. Spoons by Mali Music (self-titled album). This is a band created by the British rocker Damon Albarn of Blur fame. He partnered with musicians from the African country of Mali to make this. I love African music, and I love Damon Albarn’s work. I first heard this when I lived in England in 2001.  I listened to this album when I was giving birth to my son.
  2. Balsa by Gustavo Cerati (Bocanada). Gustavo Cerati es un genio. He incorporates the sounds of the Argentinean Pampas with the electro-rock and his unique poetry to make the most beautiful albums.
  3. Turn Into Something by Animal Collective (Feels). This band is so strangely beautiful, and their surfy psychedelic rock harmonies seem so familiar, yet, so surreal.  If you are a fan, listen to their Spanish counterpart, El Guincho (he incorporates more African sounds, and sounds a little more out there).

Lindsey Housel is the manager of digital engagement programs and master teacher for architecture, design, and graphics in the education department. Lindsey has been at the DAM since 2002 and her two favorite exhibitions that have been on view here are Yves Saint Laurent: The Retrospective and the photography exhibition Robert Benjamin: Notes on a Quiet Life.