Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

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Culture Was Under Attack in Paris…and What We Can Do About It

“Some think I do wrong to go to the opera and the theatre; but it rests me, I love to be alone, and yet to be with the people. A hearty laugh relieves me, and I seem better able after it to bear my cross.”

– Abraham Lincoln

While President Lincoln is known for winning the Civil War and proclaiming the last Thursday of November to be a day of Thanksgiving (Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!), he also relied on the arts as a way to reflect upon the weighty decisions he faced during the war. Lincoln’s words remind us of art’s place in culture: it is a means of reflection and refraction on current events and the cornerstone of society. On this day, we, as a nation, should be grateful for all that we have accomplished this past year, while also reflecting on what we still can improve both domestically and, in regards to this blog, internationally with cultural diplomacy.

In many parts of the world, the U.S. garnered a bullying reputation following operations into Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. These are textbook examples of hard power, or the use of military/economic force or coercion to achieve objectives on foreign soil. Ironically, during this same time in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the impact of the cultural diplomacy’s golden age, exemplified by the Jazz Ambassadors and the creation of the Fulbright Scholar Program, began to appear in research articles. This qualitative example demonstrates hard power’s counter, soft power, or the use of culture, political ideals, and policies to achieve similar objectives (though not to be confused as a complete substitute for hard power).

The events of 9/11 also came to underline the absence of substantive public cultural diplomacy initiatives following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the political maneuverings of DC to dissolve the USIA (U.S. Information Agency), the administer of the U.S.’s worldwide cultural diplomacy programming. With the Cold War over, the USIA and its cultural diplomacy were no longer needed since the U.S. “won” and could be downsized to fit into the Department of State. This action showed an inconceivable lack of foresight into the long-term strategy of U.S. diplomacy.

Cultural diplomacy’s relevance is frequently tied to its impact. Such measurements are often qualitative and therefore oftentimes considered negligible; this is exemplified by the frequent short-sightedness of U.S. foreign policy-makers because  results take years, if not decades, to appear. An example of cultural diplomacy’s impact is choreographer George Balanchine’s return to the Soviet Union with the New York City Ballet. Russian author Solomon Volkov observed: “I remember the overwhelming impression created by the tour. Older people rejected it: ‘The Americans aren’t dancing; they’re solving algebra problems with their feet.’ But the young saw in Balanchine’s productions the heights that the Petersburg cultural avant-garde could have reached if it had not been crushed by the Soviet authorities. Leningrad’s aspiring musicians, writers, and dancers were inspired (“A City Indebted to its Émigrés”).” But why?

Answering this question, on which I have been researching and writing my master’s thesis, is not an easy endeavor. The arts are the physical manifestation and extension of a culture, providing an immediate glimpse of cross-cultural understanding while also being rife with possible cross-cultural pitfalls. These misunderstandings are based on an ignorance of the unseen cultural aspects: the beliefs, the systems, and the values of foreign cultures. The amalgamation of an artist’s world informs their work – Balanchine’s choreography, though created decades following his flight from the Soviet Union, bore markers of his childhood training and was identified by younger Soviets as part of their heritage. This evolution of their art was done in a manner that had not been allowed by Soviet cultural policy. Similarly, the older generation could not relate. The instrument involved in these discussions was cultural diplomacy – a manner of using art to create a basis of understanding between nations.

Culture was attacked in Paris. The international cultural scene has responded: from U2 to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower going dark to the recirculation of the French National Assembly’s singing of “La Marseillaise” following January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, the power of the arts’ voice in current events has been demonstrated. It is the job of cultural diplomacy to bridge these gaps – between nations, between cultures, between ages. Effective cultural diplomacy is not just a performance or exhibit. It is the relationship bridged because of that art. It is a relationship that the U.S. is working to rebuild, one that is needed, though the path to do so is by no means simple.

Written by EALS Production Manager Sarah R. Hewitt 

The November Attacks: An Artist’s Perspective

In the light of recent events in Paris, Lebanon, Syria, Mali, and too many other places, I can’t help but be thankful this week for the foundation that the arts have given me for coping in a world full of fear and sorrow. I am thankful that men and women, artists much smarter and more talented than I, from every land and every age, have left behind the tools and instructions for how to live for the light in a world that seems covered in darkness. Continue reading “The November Attacks: An Artist’s Perspective”

A Case For Research in the Arts

Almost everyone: “That’s fantastic that you are getting a master’s degree! What are you studying?”
Me: “I’m studying Arts Management!”
Almost everyone: “Oh great…, what is that?”

Continue reading “A Case For Research in the Arts”

Choose The Panels You Want This Year At #EALS2016

It’s that time of year once again where we want to hear directly from YOU. Which panels are you most interested in seeing at #EALS2016? Continue reading “Choose The Panels You Want This Year At #EALS2016”

New Community Visions Initiative at AFTA + ART

Our country and local communities are at a pivotal crossroads as we face an election year, grapple with social justice issues, and learn to continually adapt in a 21st century globalized community (cue Jetsons theme song). Artists and arts managers are not only wondering where they fit in these conversations, but also how they can artistically intervene in these current issues. This is the theme of the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium 2016: + ARTand also the focus of the Americans for the Arts New Community Visions Initiative (NCVI). Continue reading “New Community Visions Initiative at AFTA + ART”

How to Network at Social Events Like a Pro

DC + ART is only a few short hours away, and is going to be a SOLD OUT event with arts managers, leaders, and lovers from all over the DMV and even the South and NYC. This event will not only be a time to support a great cause and get a head start on holiday shopping, but will also be the perfect opportunity to network with other arts professionals.

Melissa Potter Forde, Director of Communications and Marketing at Boys and Girl Harbor and Founder of Think Big! Think You!, is a personal branding and networking expert who works to help individuals and organizations connect the dots to the career of their dreams. EALS asked her for some of her best tips and tricks for networking at social events, and here’s her guest blog on how to network like a pro.

Continue reading “How to Network at Social Events Like a Pro”

DC + ART is ONE Day Away!

We can’t believe that DC + ART is only one day away! If you haven’t yet, be sure to get your ticket NOW since only a handful of tickets are left and their price goes up tomorrow! Continue reading “DC + ART is ONE Day Away!”

Finding Work-Life Balance

Let’s be honest: life can get stressful. Attempting to balance your career, getting ahead at work, your living situation, finances, a significant other (or lack thereof), family, and squeezing in a social life can be overwhelming at best, or impossible at worst. Continue reading “Finding Work-Life Balance”

What’s The Most Important Skill for an Arts Leader?

Picture it, a labyrinth of dark corridors, with poorly lit rooms, cloak-and-dagger politics, and the constant fear that your next action may be your last. No, I’m not talking about Renaissance Florence, but a place many of us are all too familiar with: a poorly managed work environment. Continue reading “What’s The Most Important Skill for an Arts Leader?”

10 Reasons To Come To DC + ART

DC + ART is only 1 week away! Tickets are going FAST but if you haven’t purchased yours yet, here are 10 great reasons to get yours now. Continue reading “10 Reasons To Come To DC + ART”

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