This month the Block Museum welcomes Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas in the role of Media and Communications Coordinator. Emmanuel will be supporting the work of the Museum’s marketing and communication department, focusing on expanding the Block’s reach and growing its audiences both in the galleries and online. We sat down with Emmanuel to learn more about his media production background and interest in helping Block Museum stories find a wide audience.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you find your way to design and media?
Ever since I was little, my parents inculcated a love for the arts in our lives. At home, there were always books, encyclopedias and movies. I remember sitting down and paging through the books, looking at all the images. I think my interest in art comes from there. However, my drive to make and create comes from discovering literature a few years later. I read a lot and I would always visualize the locations, the characters, the mood. I remember reading passages and conceptualizing, not just the scene and dialogue, but also the way I would film them, the camera angles, the movements, the cuts. When I realized I was doing this, I began to look towards a career in directing, writing and producing. I applied to the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA, however I didn’t make it in on my first try. I withdrew from UCLA to attend Riverside Community College while I prepared to apply again.
What was supposed to be a one-year detour became a three-year shift where I expanded my interests: I took photography, design, and film studies classes. When I was finally accepted to the UCLA film school, I had a more well-rounded artistic education. During my senior year, I decided to concentrate on producing digital interactive media. That decision further expanded my understanding of what art could be and what it could look like. It forced me to learn a new array of design and media techniques, softwares and methodologies. I still want to tell stories, and I am still working on becoming a director; except, now I have a clearer understanding of the barriers I want to push past as a storyteller.
What particularly interests you about working within the context of an art museum?
As a creator, the idea of working in an art museum is an opportunity of almost-limitless possibilities. It’s also an ideal way to keep on reading, learning and contributing. To work in a place that constantly introduces you to new works, artists and movements is truly a blessing for someone who is interested in developing creative content.
Can you tell us about some of your previous projects?
After graduating from UCLA, I worked at we are mitú, a social media company targeting Latinx millennials. There, I was responsible for creating weekly video content for their different social platforms (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc). It was fast-paced work, but well worth it for the number of Latinx creatives I met while working there. Those are some relationships I will always treasure because it felt like a real #moment– there were so many of us, and we were all working towards our individual passions. They are some of the most creative people I’ve met, and I treasure their unique perspectives.
During this time, I worked a lot with my mom producing content; movie reviews, recipes, vlogs. Audiences loved her and she has a lot of charisma in-front of the camera. We got to do all kinds of things; we even got to travel to New York and meet the cast of Oceans 8! My mom told Anne Hathaway that she was her fan and that everyone back home was sending her greetings. I’m still working with my mom on our personal project: La Cocina Tradicional de Rosa Mama (Rosa Mama’s Traditional Kitchen). It’s a youtube channel where we’ll be tackling traditional Mexican recipes while talking about authenticity and what that means today when you can purchase tortillas in a plastic bag at the grocery store. I envision it as an audiovisual cookbook of ingredients, not necessarily straightforward recipes.
What work will be your focus as Block Media Producer?
As the Block’s Media Producer I will be focusing on creating content to announce upcoming events, exhibitions, talks and panels. The Block is already producing invaluable work, so it is my pleasure to help spread the reach of these exhibitions and programs. I’m happy to help highlight the wide range of diverse and global perspectives presented through the visual and material culture exhibited at the museum. I look forward to bringing my experience from working in a social media company to produce videos, graphics, and programs while trying to incorporate popular digital formats. I like dabbling in memes, photography, graphic design, video production, editing, and motion graphics. This role has room for all of that.
What drew you to the Block Museum mission, exhibitions, and program?
The Block in particular is fertile ground for my objectives to keep on learning, discovering, and contributing. Every quarter at the Block is filled with excellent programing from the world at large, knowledge that otherwise would be inaccessible. Last year’s Pop América exhibit brought so many Latin American works, films, artists and conversations to the museum. Some of which I knew, a lot of it which I didn’t. The amount of art and information was enthralling and very stimulating.
What museum exhibitions or screenings (outside the Block) have inspired you lately?
Super/Natural: Textiles of the Andes at the Art Institute of Chicago several months ago exhibited a multitude of Pre-columbian Andean textiles. While on a tour given by the curators, I was blown away by the amount of detail present in these ancestral fabrics. They showcase millenary weaving traditions that served more purpose than mere clothing. These fabrics were often used for religious rituals and they were embedded with a multiplicity of symbolisms. In spite of five centuries of colonization and the attempted extermination of indigenous epistemologies, these traditions endure to this day even if radically altered from their original form. As a storyteller in search of new ways to convey information, I was thoroughly fascinated. I hope to utilize these methods of textile communication in some screenplay in conversation with the integrity of native voices to highlight this tragic history.
What are your goals in this role?
I see my role’s purpose in documenting everything that happens at the museum. If someone looks at one of my pamphlets, programs or postcards and decides to come experience the museum for themselves, that’s a win. In the age of social media word of mouth, I envision an accessible, online repository of visitor experiences. One that makes you experience some form of FOMO (fear of missing out) that doesn’t let you stay away from the museum too long. I want to make content that documents all the comings and goings at the museum, one that equally privileges critical engagement with academics, the student body at Northwestern, and the general public in this highly diverse city.