"The Foundation will work to overcome the fragmentation between scientific and humanistic culture"
Alba Alarcón, Director of the Julio Muñoz Ramonet Foundation.
With a degree in Law and a postgraduate degree in Public Management and Leadership, Alba Alarcón was appointed last May as the new director of the Julio Muñoz Ramonet Foundation. We spoke to her about her new position at the head of this entity to turn it into a benchmark centre for culture, art and science in the city, a milestone included in the objectives of the Barcelona Science Plan 2020-2023.
You studied law. How did you end up opting for the cultural sphere?
Since I started my professional career as a lawyer in the public sector, my interest has always been focused on the cultural sector. Eleven years ago I had the opportunity to join the Mercat de les Flors team. The Mercat is a benchmark facility in its field and over the years has managed to generate an impact on the city and the country, intertwining projects of various kinds with the common denominator of the cultural promotion of dance and the arts of movement.
What do you take away from the Mercat de les Flors?
At the Mercat de les Flors I have had the opportunity to gain experience in public management in the cultural sector, of which it is a first-rate reference point. This has allowed me to develop a special sensitivity, capacity for understanding and connection with the needs and specific characteristics of the artistic community to which, in short, I have been indebted throughout all these years.
The direction of the Julio Muñoz Ramonet Foundation is a step forward in this line. Understanding the origins and context of the facility, giving it meaning, respecting the will that has given it its raison d’être, and making it begin its evolution to become a cultural centre of reference in the network of spaces dedicated to the reflection and dissemination of art, culture and science in the logic of contemporary thought is a stimulating challenge that I face with the motivation and commitment that an opportunity like this requires.
What are your goals?
One of the main goals for the next few years is to tackle the refurbishment work that will allow the Foundation to be fully operational. Currently, only the garden area is open to the public. Although it is a fantastic environment that the residents of the neighbourhood enjoy every day, the possibilities that the Foundation can offer to the public as a facility will not be fully realised until the necessary interventions are carried out to open all of its spaces to the public.
What legacy has Anna Ferrer, the previous director, left you?
Anna Ferrer began working for the Foundation at a very complex time, shortly after the Supreme Court ruling that resolved the legacy of the estate and its contents in favour of the organisation. As is well known, most of the assets that made up the collection were not made available to the Foundation, which opened a new litigious path to the courts that has not yet been resolved. Anna has accompanied the Foundation throughout this process, while at the same time nurturing and strengthening the foundations of the entity as such, providing it with the necessary infrastructure and resources to be able to put it into operation.
This is one of the challenges we face. It is important for the Foundation to resolve the pending litigation and create a context that allows the entity to focus all its efforts on getting the equipment up and running, without distractions of any kind.
What do you hope to learn from this experience as director?
The directorship of the Foundation is an opportunity for me to delve into the integral management of all aspects of the functioning and operation of an entity of this nature.
Apart from this more functional aspect, the Foundation will work to overcome the fragmentation of scientific and humanistic culture, as a response to a distinction that has become obsolete and does not respond to something that is already a reality in the current context. It is a privilege and a learning experience that I will take away from this experience to witness such an important turning point at the hands of the agents of change themselves.
How can scientific knowledge be integrated into all this legacy?
The Muñoz Ramonet house will be the site of a dynamic centre that will work on various scales around the contemporary city in its cultural, artistic and scientific dimensions. Part of the centre is conceived as a museum space that will exhibit the recovered art collection in interaction with the building, as a testimony to the social representation and ways of life of the bourgeoisie in post-war Barcelona. This environment will merge into a space for research, reflection, debate and dissemination, as well as a space in which to work with artistic programmes, memory programmes, history programmes and, finally, art and science programmes with a residency for creative profiles.
It is a centre that adopts some of the functions of existing and well-known models of facilities such as a museum, a cultural centre that generates very diverse activities, or a centre for contemporary creation, but which in turn transcends all these typologies considered separately to become a new-generation mixed facility.
Have you had contact with scientific culture in previous positions?
I have not had direct contact with scientific culture, specifically in previous positions. It is a new world for me and I approach it with a desire to learn and to know. Curiosity is key when it comes to taking on new challenges.
Why do you think it is necessary to promote the intersection between science and art in a space like the Foundation?
The close relationship between artistic creation and scientific creation will play an important role in the centre, with the aim of becoming a benchmark in this field. The Foundation aspires to nurture a community made up of artists and scientists, with a continuous circulation of these professionals through scientific research centres, artistic creation spaces and the Foundation itself. In this sense, the Foundation will have to establish bilateral relations with the different research centres in the city, as well as with generating agents in the cultural sphere, and design its own programme of support for creation that will be based on hosting artistic residencies in its spaces.
What are the main uses that the public will be able to make of Muñoz Ramonet’s legacy?
The facility will be made available to the public around three main axes. Firstly, the art and culture axis, which allows different aspects to be explored in depth: art and culture in general, as the basis of Muñoz Ramonet’s legacy and as the function of the Foundation as the entity in charge of conserving and maintaining this legacy. Secondly, the city and culture axis, which will place the facility as a centre of proximity and a space for knowledge, research and creation around the concerns and challenges of the contemporary city. And finally, the art and science axis, which will propose overcoming the old distinction between humanistic and scientific culture to delve into the increasingly close relationship between contemporary artistic creation and scientific research.
How will the facility be integrated into the social and cultural fabric of the neighbourhood and the city?
The facility will be configured as an integrated, open space for everyday use by the residents of the neighbourhood. Currently, the Galvany neighbourhood already enjoys the historic garden of the estate, open to the public, where we programme activities for all ages. On a city scale, the Foundation will be integrated into the network of cultural facilities as a unique and multi-faceted centre, both from a heritage and conceptual perspective and in terms of programming activities.
Does the Foundation aspire to be the benchmark space for scientific culture in Sant Gervasi-Galvany?
Without losing part of its essence as a neighbourhood facility, the Foundation aspires to become an active centre that connects the historical testimony of the 20th century with the artistic and scientific creation of the 21st century beyond this territorial area.
One of the first actions carried out in the Foundation’s gardens around the intersection of art and science has been the cycle of family activities C1ENCI4RT. How did it go?
In general, the reception has been good, as the programme of family activities at weekends already had a previous history in the Foundation’s programme and, therefore, there was already a public accustomed to participating.
What other proposals along these lines would you highlight?
The Foundation’s gardens were the setting for a series of activities within the framework of the ISEA Congress held in Barcelona last June and, in the immediate future, we hope to be able to organise activities to present scientific research projects that have received municipal support within the framework of Science Week next November.
The idea is to carry out activities in the field of art and science so that, despite not having the spaces fully operational, we can gradually consolidate a more or less stable programme in this area.
Is it also open to big events such as the City and Science Biennial?
It is clear that an event like the City and Science Biennial must establish relations and synergies with the Foundation’s art and science project. We will have to see how we articulate it according to the proposals and how they fit in with the possibilities offered by the spaces at the time.
Work will soon begin on the buildings. What is the schedule of activities?
The joint venture formed by the architects Mercè Zazurca, Xavier Botet, Albert Saboya and César Sánchez has won the tender for the project and management of the comprehensive refurbishment of the two buildings that make up the estate located between Carrer de Muntaner and Carrer del Porvenir. Work is now beginning on the basic project, which will later be converted into an executive project. The work will be put out to tender and construction work will begin well into 2024, which will take a year, in the best-case scenario.