Caroline Quintanar: Art, heritage and modernity
We love sharing inspirational stories about creative people who develop exciting proyects. That’s why we would like to interview an exceptional guest like Caroline Quintanar, a knowmad of our times, for our new section “INSIGHT.
-Caroline, welcome to Wazo Magazine. It is a pleasure for our team to be able to speak with a person who has turned her passion for the history of art into her work. How and when does your passion for the history of art and especially for the medieval world arise?
My first exposure to art history was in high school. There were two specific instances that impacted me early on and acted as the catalysts that sparked my love of art history.
The first was a visual analysis of the Arnolfini Portrait (1434) by Jan Van Eyck. My teacher was brilliant at pushing us to see beyond the painting itself and to seek out the details and not so obvious symbolism. Anyone who has studied the Arnolfini Portrait knows the painting has a wealth of symbols and particular items that were representative of the time. This was my first experience learning history with a piece of art as a supporting visual aid. The second experience was the next year where we were to analyze the Self Portrait (1498) by Albrecht Duerer. So for the next few years I was engrossed in the Renaissance, particularly Northern Renaissance painting. My passion for medieval was fostered during my time at university at the University of Arizona in the United States. I took my first medieval art history class in 2008 and was taught by Dr. Therese Martin. Her engaging teaching style and passion for the subject awakened a keen interest in myself. From then on, I took every medieval art history class offered at my university. There was no turning back, I was (and still am) in love with Spanish medieval art and architecture. Though I truly enjoy anything medieval now.
-We have noticed a remarkable approach to transversality in your professional career and background. How do the soft skills help to improve your professional profile?
I have a colorful professional background. Unlike most who are involved in culture and heritage, my career has not be solely focused on that area and this in turn has provided me with a unique perspective when it comes to this sector. I have worked in retail, as a teacher, in higher education (particularly education management) and event management. All of theses roles, despite being drastically different in daily tasks, all include the same theme: working with people. I enjoy working with people and sharing my interests and passion. My ability to understand people allows me to create and market products or services in a way that captivates the target audience. Not only are I am sharing something I am passionate about, I am communicating it in a way that others feel involved.
-You are currently the publisher of Medieval Magazine. What is the focus of this publication and what are the objectives that it pursues?
The Medieval Magazine has evolved quite a bit over the last year. We focus on medieval topics ranging from history (based on the issue theme), travel locations, art and architecture history, book reviews to interviews with medievalists from around the world. Our aim is to give a broader view of the world during the Middle Ages. We strive to look at medieval history not just in Europe but also across the globe. Though sometimes it is not the traditional “medieval” most expect, it is vital to understanding the medieval world. People were not as insular and isolated as many tend to believe nowadays. The medieval world extends beyond the Crusades, King Arthur and Vikings and we are going to show our readers that. We aim to act not only as a leisure magazine for history enthusiasts but also to become an alternative educational resource for Medieval Studies students.
-Regarding business you have a very strong personal brand as your blog (Caroline Art), your YouTube channel and your presence in social networks show. Could you detail to our readers what are your goals?. Why do you have such a commitment with the new platforms?
My blog and personal brand blossomed from a specific experience. In 2010 I was visiting Salamanca, Spain and on a brief walk down a small street near the cathedral I came across a Romanesque church in complete ruins and filled with trash. I was horrified that a historical site was being treated as a dumping ground for weekend party goers.
I made a conscious decision to work to do something about this. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident and I saw various places in the same state across the country. In 2011, I started my blog with the intention of solely discussing art history however it then evolved into a platform to share these lesser known locations and highlight the need for historical preservation and conservation. I started with Spain but also looked at other medieval sites around Europe. My goal is to share these places with an audience outside of the local area, raise awareness and also inspire budding historians. I studied art history with still images on a projector or small images in a massive text book. I only was exposed to a few places but little did I know there were hundreds of places begging to be studied and protected.
My commitment to new platforms stems from my interest in technology and firm belief in the power of social media as a driver of change. Of course, social media has its dark side but it also has the incredible power to connect people across the globe with the same vision and passion. I recently started with the YouTube channel as another way to show that I am a real person to my followers. I have taken a brief sabbatical from that because of the birth of my daughter but I hope to start back up in the next few months (with a small sidekick).
-In the future, do you think that the use of digital communication will be implemented among professionals in the humanities field?
I have seen that digital communication is taking the humanities field by storm but right now it really depends on the country. The US and UK have a massive online community, specifically using Twitter as the platform. Instagram is growing rapidly as a platform to raise awareness and engage a broader audience also. I believe, for the humanities
to survive and thrive, we need to band together and leverage the tools we have on hand. Digital communication has opened new doors to future scholars without realizing it. For example, a decade ago, it was difficult to find quality images of medieval manuscripts and now you can browse the British Library catalogue and even find specific images in seconds. This is just the beginning of a larger scale digitization of the humanities.
-Online matters aside, you are committed to conservation and recovery of heritage. You use to collaborate with Stonehenge Alliance and other non-profit organizations. Do you think that these initiatives promote visibility and appreciation of the heritage?
I whole heartedly do. It is clear that unless action is taken by people who are seriously concerned, most places in danger eventually succumb to their fate and fall into ruin. The Stonehenge Alliance is actively working to protect one of the world’s most renowned historical sites. We would logically think such a place, a UNESCO World Heritage site no less, is immune to threatening initiatives. However, with the proposed road works in the area, regardless of the site’s significance there are still plans to upheave land dangerously close to the monument. This land itself is also extremely important from an archaeological perspective. When I first shared my collaborative efforts with my blog following (the majority is outside of the UK), everyone was astonished that this was even being considered.
Heritage can only be protected if WE make a conscious effort to protect it. Whether through donations, raising awareness, petitions or more. We cannot rely on anyone else but ourselves to stress the importance of appreciation and preservation. Whether it’s world famous like Stonehenge or a small hermitage tucked away in the heart of Spain, it is all vital to our understanding of the past.
-Caroline, you have many open fronts and you are currently preparing new projects. What are your next goals for the future?
2018 was a pivotal year for The Medieval Magazine. We evolved in content and design and intend to continue this growth in 2019. We are now partnered with the incredible team at Ancient History Encyclopedia and will be working on some new initiatives with them this year also. Apart from that, we will be re-launching a new website looking at Early Modern history. Early Modernists will look at global history from the 16th to the 19th century. At the moment we will be only launching the website but we are keen to release a magazine hopefully in 2020.
On a personal level, I am keen on getting involved in more initiatives with cultural preservation and historical conservation. My blog has served as a phenomenal platform for raising awareness and I intend on leveraging this reach further this year. I actively am promoting a crowdfunding project from DigVentures and will be attending their dig at Sudeley Castle later this year.
-Thank you caroline, but we can’t let you go without asking you something that many Wazers want to know. What advice would you give to graduates in humanities to achieve a professional status in culture?
I think it is best to be honest about the professional panorama that awaits humanities graduates. Unlike other sectors, ours is more difficult to find that perfect role. I highly recommend exploring other industries to gain soft skills along with practical knowledge that can then be applied to the humanities field. There are many opportunities out there besides academia where humanities students can make a real impact on culture and heritage. My advice: be diligent, open minded and network. You never know where there is an opportunity waiting for you. It can be a simple tweet, striking up a conversation at a museum or a brave email with an innovative idea.
Most impressive monument that you have visited
El Monasterio de San Lorenzo del Escorial. It isn’t a medieval monument but it is the most striking building I have seen so far. You don’t know what to expect until you step off the train in the village of El Escorial and turn the corner to be greeted by an incredible dome. Truly stunning.
Favorite social network
I go back and forth between Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is great for real time conversations and connecting. Instagram is a great way to have a visual representation of what’s important to someone. You can follow me on either though: Twitter Instagram
Series or historical film that most marked you
When I was young, I was obsessed with Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is, by far, my favorite movie of all time and was a very important piece of cinema that got me interested in history at a very young age. Yes, it is fiction but there was some historical truth. I still strive to find and protect historical artifacts/sites and beat up bad guys.
A museum you can’t miss
I am partial to the Museo del Prado. I have probably been there about 20 times. I used to live down the street from it and would visit during the free hours frequently. It has some of my favorite pieces, like Albrecht Duerer’s“Self Portrait” I mentioned above. It was always great to go see my buddy Albrecht and some Fra Angelico or Velazquez.
History of art book for beginners
Oh this is a tough question. Most introductory art history books cover almost 5000 years in a mere 400 pages. Also, these books tend to be quite expensive. I recommend looking at different museums on Google Arts & Culture and have a look at their open source content. I have a lot of art history books but all looking at specific time periods or cultures. There is just too much out there to pack into one book (in my opinion at least)!