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Sunday, October 01, 2023 — Houston, TX

VADA events coordinator Maria Martinez does it all

Zeisha Bennett / Thresher

By Sarah Knowlton     3/28/23 10:15pm

As events coordinator for Rice’s Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts, Maria Martinez is currently booking films for Rice Cinema, distributing events calendars, finding studio models, assisting with student-run gallery Sleepy Cyborg, talking to local artists and responding to emails. She’s also making a lot of coffee.

“I do exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, pop-ups, award ceremonies and everything that falls in between,” Martinez said. “Normally [VADA] is collaborating with some other entity in some form or fashion, it’s just making sure everything is ready to go.”

The multitudinous events coordinator duties give Martinez the opportunity, she said, to collaborate with artists both within Rice and in the larger Houston community.

“I enjoy working with our visiting artists, [and] I really enjoy working with our students and building those relationships,” Martinez said. “I think that has to be one of the more rewarding things, because I feel it's actually making an impact.”

However, visual arts aren’t the only way that Martinez has engaged with her community. Before being hired by Rice, Martinez said she worked in public relations for Houston music festivals like Day for Night and Free Press Summer Fest, among other public events.

“I was working with mainly music festivals. But then I also ran a vintage festival that I put on with two other women,” Martinez said. “We did [Houston Vintage] for over 10 years, which was a huge labor of love.”

Martinez said she moved from New York City to Houston during the 2008 financial recession. Struggling to find a job in public relations, she said she capitalized on her passion for vintage clothing.

“A good friend and I decided to open our own shop called Beatniks, and we sold vintage clothes, accessories, jewelry and tango shoes that we imported from Buenos Aires,” Martinez said. ​​”We also hosted local artists, and every month we'd have these little art openings so that we could basically have a party and invite a bunch of people and have a good time.”

As Beatniks continued, Martinez started to expand her business ventures once again, this time into cosmetics.

“I love making things and I love anything DIY, so I just started experimenting with products to make an organic lip balm,” Martinez said. “Even though I found some things that I could buy wholesale, some things I couldn't, so I literally became a one- woman assembly line.”

Although Martinez has narrowed her artistic and business focuses since coming to Rice, she says her experiences in public relations and business have forever changed how she views products and sustainability.

“The experience of having a shop and my own product taught me so much not only about taxes, but about really being conscious of where you buy things, where it's assembled and what's being used,” Martinez said. “I really tried to focus on keeping things as sustainable and inclusive and fun as possible. It's a real feat trying to brand yourself and your own products and get it out there.“

Pivoting away from her businesses, Martinez once again turned one of her passions — this time, education — into an employment opportunity when a friend recommended she apply for the VADA events coordinator job at Rice.

“Education for me has always been so important, and I really appreciated that the job was at a university and dealt with the arts,” Martinez said. “It resonated with me … I like being part of something that expands beyond campus.”

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