Art Works Blog

The Art of Diplomacy

Washington, DC

Tuulirjuaq (Great Big Loon) by Mayoreak Ashoona, one of the artists featured in the upcoming exhibit Nipirasait: Many Voices (Inuit Prints from Cape Dorset) at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC ©Dorset Fine Arts

Rocco's headed north---way north---to visit with the director of Canada's Council for the Arts. But you can also celebrate Canadian arts and culture right here in Washington, DC thanks to the cultural programs at the Embassy of Canada located at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Here's more from NEA's Adam Kampe.

Since one of the principal duties of an embassy is to act as a center of public diplomacy and advocacy, many of the embassies in Washington, DC screen films, host galas, and celebrate their nations' art. The Embassy of Canada, however, goes one step farther?it actually has an official art gallery that?s open to the public Monday-Friday. Though housed in one of the most original buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue (hello echo chamber!), the gallery can get lost in DC?s proverbial (artistic) shuffle. In speaking with Carolyn Strauss, the embassy?s counsellor for culture and outreach, I learned a few reasons why it?s worth dropping by the public gallery and theater space.

For one, Strauss explained, ?The Canadian Embassy is a conscious partner of the cultural community.? Embassy staff works very hard to keep the embassy open to the public, and its ?open door policy? not only informs, but also inspires tourists and residents. Strauss emphasized the importance of mutually beneficial collaborations with organizations located in the District, such as the National Gallery of Art, the American Film Institute (AFI), and the Newseum (which is right next door). City partnerships, in addition to fostering international camaraderie, help drive foot traffic to different downtown art spaces. Specifically, the Embassy allows local festivals---from AFI?s SilverDocs to the DC Environmental Film Fest---to screen films in its theater.

Through the Canadian/Washington Theatre Partnership, the embassy also plays an active role in the DC theatre community. In collaboration with the Helen Hayes Awards, the embassy supports a cultural exchange program that provides grants to artistic directors from the Washington, D.C. area to visit their Canadian counterparts, giving artists a chance to explore Canadian theater and engage with the country's playwrights.

Avataq Spirit (2009) by Ningeokuluk Teevee, one of the artists featured in the upcoming exhibit Nipirasait: Many Voices (Inuit Prints from Cape Dorset) at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC ©Dorset Fine Arts

In its onsite gallery, the embassy hosts exhibits of visual art and historical objects that appeal to a wide array of visitors, such as Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who stopped in for a tour of the 2008 exhibit, Champlain?s Dream: A Priceless Collections of Maps and Documents. [Sidenote: For all those who haven?t taken Social Studies since fifth grade, Samuel Champlain is the legendary cartographer and explorer who first set foot in Vermont in 1609. Lake Champlain, named in his memory, straddles the US-Canadian border.]

Most recently, the embassy mounted the dynamic exhibit, Karsh at 100: Portraits of Artists, a stunning collection of Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh?s striking portraits of prominent U.S., Canadian, and international artists, such as Martha Graham, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.

The embassy also curates a number of concerts and exhibits that celebrate Canada?s rich bilingual, multicultural, and Aboriginal heritage. Opening July 1 is Nipirasait: Many Voices, an exhibit of Inuit prints from Cape Dorset (the ?Capital of Inuit Art"), a small hamlet famous for its colorful, intricate printmaking and carvings.

Visit the Embassy of Canada?s website to learn more about Canada and its arts and cultural program in  Washington, DC.

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