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Cultural diplomacy and engagement
Responding to cultural shifts in a multi-polar world
By Louise Hallman
Relations between nations and their peoples, cover many different areas, from the political to the economic, but as the 21st century sees the rise of new economic powers and shifts in traditional power to new (or resurgent) players in the international arena, many in the world are asking what changes this will bring not only in economics and politics, but also in culture. How can understanding another countries culture and art help explain its behaviour in other realms? And how can art and culture be used to promote better understanding between confronting nations?
It is to this end that 50 participants from over 25 countries on six continents came to share their experiences of cultural exchange, engagement and diplomacy, as Saturday, April 28 saw the start of the Salzburg Global Seminar’s Session ‘Public and Private Cultural Exchange-Based Diplomacy: New Models for the 21st Century’.
As our world rapidly changes with the emergence of multi-polar powers, the growing influence of rapidly developing nations in Asia, South America, and the Gulf, increasing urbanization, rising educational levels, and accelerated scientific and business innovation, so too is the art world, with more pluralistic and inclusive definitions of culture, a greater preponderance and acceptance of arts activity at all levels, and increased participation in the arts through broadcast, digital, and social media.
These changes have brought with them increasing levels of global cohesion – and division. As the world becomes more interconnected through increased global travel and advances in digital technology, political, cultural, and religious tensions continue to create divides. Cultural diplomacy, exchange and engagement can help bridge these divisions – creating understanding and appreciation of foreign cultures, but this isn’t without it challenges.
This Session will look to address those challenges, looking at the role private and public funds have to play in the promotion of cultural exchange and diplomacy; the shifting economic powers and how that changes the parameters of engagement in the newly multi-polar world; the promotion of cultural diversity within cultural relations; and the role that technology, global communications and social media have and will have to play in cultural engagement.
Opening the Session, Margaret “Peggy” Ayers, President and CEO of the Session sponsor, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, welcomed the international cadre of cultural experts, foundation heads, policymakers, artists and academics, and explained how her foundation had chosen to move into the field of cultural diplomacy.
A long supporter of the arts – starting with Robert Sterling Clark himself and his large art collection now housed in Williamstown, Massachusetts – the Foundation moved away from giving small scale grants to hundreds of small arts projects in the 1970s, to instead in the 1980s focussing on funding the management of arts organisations in New York City, as well as the non-arts-related areas of women’s reproductive health and government accountability.
By 2001, wanting to re-distinguish the Foundation in the art world, which was now widely supporting the type of arts management capacity building that RSCF had been funding, Ms. Ayers was opened to the field of cultural diplomacy after the September 11 attacks. According to the Pew Global Attitudes project there had been a surge in support for the US after the attacks, but this global opinion rating had plunged once the US military started its operations in Iraq in 2003.
“There were cries in Congress and academics throughout the country, ‘What’s happened? Where’s our public diplomacy?’. Well there was none because back in the 1990s the organisation responsible for public diplomacy in the US – the US Information Agency – was dismantled... So after 9/11 there was really no attempt to figure out how we could relate to countries internationally because there was no apparatus to do it.” explained Ms. Ayers.
After compiling research into how underfunded international arts exchange programs were, Ms. Ayers launched the ‘Promoting International Arts Engagement’ grants scheme.
This scheme has now funded such projects as Dance Motion USA; led by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the project has taken American dancers to small towns in Africa, Asia and South America that had previously had little-to-no exposure to American art.
Brooklyn Academy of Music President, Karen Brooks Hopkins, is also present in Salzburg for the Seminar and shared her experience of the difficulty of accessing both public and private funding, especially for overseas arts and culture exchanges.
Other keynote speakers include Vishakha Desai, President of the Asia Society in New York, Vernon Ellis, Chairman of the British Council in London, and Oussama Rifahi, Executive Director of the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in Beirut.
Participants, after listening to comments from the keynote speakers and their respondents, will then spend much of the week in small working groups and will then present their conclusions and recommendations for how the field can face its challenges. A Salzburg Statement will be published after the Seminar.
Related to Salzburg Global Seminar Session:Public and Private Cultural Exchange-Based Diplomacy: New Models for the 21st Century - April 2012
posted on: 30 April, 2012
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