If the Inhotim Institute did not suffer directly in its territory the consequences of the Vale dam failure in Brumadinho, which took place in January of this year, the great open-air museum – with 140 hectares between gardens and pavilions dedicated to contemporary art – did not fail to have its activities affected by the tragedy in the city of Minas Gerais.
The institute, which reached a total of 2018 million visits in 3 (in 13 years of activity), had a large drop in the number of visitors in the first months of this year, as a result of the destruction of areas of the city and the decrease in tourism. In addition, 80% of Inhotim's 600 employees are residents of the region and, in different ways, suffered from the consequences of the breakup.
Encouraging the resumption of visits to the institute and strengthening ties with the local community are some of the main focuses of the new executive director of Inhotim, Renata Bittencourt, who took office last April. The change in the board – which takes place more than a year after the resignation of Bernardo Paz from the presidency, as a result of his problems with the Justice – also included the transfer of Antonio Grassi to the position of CEO.
Bittencourt, who worked at the Instituto Brasilerios de Museus (Ibram) and at the MinC's Secretary for Citizenship and Cultural Diversity, is the author of research on the representation of blacks in the history of art. She spoke via email with the ARTE!Brasileiros about the challenges of its management, the institute's efforts in the recovery of the region and the Brazilian political panorama. Read below.
ARTE!Brasileiros - You assumes the directorship of Inhotim at a very difficult time for the city of Brumadinho and for the region, after the dam rupture, which resulted in a large number of deaths and a major environmental tragedy. What are the initial plans for its management and how do they relate to this context?
Renata Bittencourt – We have two central challenges today. One of them is to strengthen ties with the local community. We have already carried out several actions and projects with residents of Brumadinho and region, such as Nosso Inhotim, which guarantees free admission to the Institute and half admission to events; the School of Music, which provides musical training to children, youth and adults in the community; Inhotim for Todxs, for accessibility to groups participating in social movements; and many others. But we are committed to intensifying and proposing new activities, in order to expand not only access, but also a more effective participation of the community in Inhotim.
Another work front is to continue inviting audiences from different parts of Brazil and the world to visit Inhotim and Brumadinho, with all the beauties and cultural riches that the region offers.
What is the potential of Inhotim to help in the “rebuildtion” of the city and the normalization of the lives of its inhabitants?
Inhotim has a history of many years of relationship and construction with this territory. The people of Brumadinho are largely responsible for the beauty built in Inhotim since Bernardo Paz started the project, and today 80% of the institution's employees are from the city and region. At the same time, Inhotim enabled the emergence of a tourist chain that benefits many people and that must continue to be vitalized, today more than ever. The people of Brumadinho demonstrate their strength every day and it is up to us to admire this community and strengthen Inhotim as a constructive presence.
As you said, the Nosso Inhotim program is part of this approach to the city. How does it work?
Inhotim belongs to Brumadinho, so it is only fair for the institution to make it clear that the doors are open to everyone in this community. We want the institution to be a regenerating space for coexistence, for everyone who wants to enjoy its Botanical Garden and its art galleries. With the Nosso Inhotim program, registered residents of Brumadinho have free access to Inhotim and a 50% discount on events held by the Institute. Once a month, Inhotim teams will promote the registration of residents in person, which can also be done by email. In the last two months, we have already registered more than 3 thousand people.
As for the artistic content on display, are there plans for new pavilions or new exhibitions in the near future?
We have some very exciting new projects related to the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Robert Irwin, and we'll hear from you soon.
At this moment, how is the fundraising for the Institute taking place?
Instituto Inhotim is a non-profit institution, recognized by the state government as a Civil Society Organization of Public Interest (Oscip) since 2008. The title facilitates partnerships between the Institute and municipal, state and federal governments, and allows companies to donations to Inhotim so that these amounts are deducted from the tax owed to the government. All funds collected at the box office and from the sale of services are intended for the maintenance of Inhotim's activities. For the sustainability and maintenance of our services, we have sponsors, partners and supporters who believe in our work and enable the creation and development of many projects.
Can the new rules in the Rouanet Law, already used many times by Inhotim, affect the institute?
Museums were not affected by the most recent changes, as they work with annual activity plans. But it is clear that the Rouanet Law is an important instrument for promoting culture for artistic productions and cultural institutions of different profiles.
The current situation in the country and the policies of the new government have generated great apprehension for those who work with culture, in general. How do you see this moment and these new policies?
I believe the problem is broader. We need to reflect on the importance we attach, as a society, to diversity as a value, to cultural manifestations as heritage and to the social role of cultural institutions. The strengthening of the sector depends on this broad awareness, and on the complementary action of different spheres, connected with the fields of creation, mediation and management.
Speaking more specifically about your academic production, one of your lines of research has to do with the representation of black people in the History of Art, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thinking about Brazil today, how do you see the picture? There are still one underrepresentstion of black artists, researchers and professionals in the visual arts?
Culture is the field of coexistence of different visions and imaginations of the world and the plurality of expressions. I believe that the arts system has been called upon to observe the need to value diversity in the context of the institutions' technical bodies. There is an expressive and growing number of professionals and researchers ready to contribute to the diversification of voices and perspectives.