Meet Smithsonian expert Alfredo Villar: Where history meets hip

Alfredo Villar is a Peruvian writer, art historian, and curator specializing in Amazonic and contemporary urban culture and music. He has published fiction and poetry books and also a graphic novel, “Rupay,” that was possible because of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He is very active in the art scene where he has curated the Amazonic art and chicha art expositions. Alfredo was part of the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival dedicated to Peru, with a group of Amazonic and chicha artists and musicians. Additionally, he plays Amazonic and chicha music under the name of DJ SABROSO.

When students travel to Peru on one of our Smithsonian University Travel Programs, they will meet Alfredo Villar. His workshop on chicha culture will open their eyes to a kind of street art that has its roots in the Peruvian past. Learn more about our Smithsonian expert, Alfredo.

Alfredo Villar

Q: What is a typical day in your job?
A: I run an art gallery and I am an independent art curator and historian. I do my research. I go to libraries, artist workshops, and then to new galleries that are opening not only in Lima, but all over my country.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: Chicha culture is the urban popular culture in Peru. I studied art history and linguistics and literature. My work specializes in the most contemporary art, culture and music, but as a historian, I try to link it with all the knowledge that comes from our millenary past.

Q: Tell us something that especially fascinates you about Peruvian culture?
A: Peruvian culture is so diverse. There is the new urban culture, the chicha culture, but there is also a strong millennium culture that comes from pre-Hispanic roots and colonial culture from the colonial past that is very interesting. We have different regional cultures from natives and mestizos. When you come to Peru, you can see very old stuff to the new stuff living together and it is all very original and very rich.

Q: When you go home each day, what makes you most proud?
A: I work with artists who are not from official or commercial galleries; they are contemporary folk artists. They don’t have many chances to display their work, so I try to put them in the spotlight and I try to get them into spaces that are not so easy to get into. I work with urban artists and Amazonic native artists, so I am proud to open doors and opportunities for them.

Alfredo’s work is just one of the hands-on experiences that make Smithsonian University Travel Programs one-of-a-kind. Learn more about our Smithsonian University Travel Programs.