Art Works Blog

Moving Forward: Making the Case for Cultural Diplomacy

New York, New York

John Brademas. Photo: NYU/Fabian Bachrach

After serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and as the president of New York University (NYU), my major project now is the John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at NYU. Through scholarly research and public programs, the Brademas Center examines the role of the U.S. Congress as a policy-making institution as well as significant issues of public policy.

In January 2009, we held a symposium at NYU with a group of distinguished arts and cultural experts to explore the policy implications of a renewed focus on U.S. cultural diplomacy. We released our findings---calling for an expansion of international arts and cultural exchanges---in a report to Congress and the president titled Moving Forward: A Renewed Role for American Arts and Artists in the Global Age.

Let me highlight just a few of our recommendations:

This report recommends that international arts and cultural exchanges be integrated into the planning strategies of U.S. policymakers as a key element of public policy?.robust public diplomacy is essential to U.S. national security and the promotion of American interests around the globe. The arts community has observed firsthand the value of international artistic exchanges in promoting moderation and tolerance among widely diverse religious and cultural groups.

It is critical that international arts and cultural exchanges be two-way, person-to-person endeavors in order to promote the human connection and that such connections be sustained over time.

We can demonstrate the multicultural nature of American society at its best, presenting a vision of openness and freedom of expression to societies where such opportunities are often lacking.

Cultural exchanges must be sensitive to local needs, practices, and aspirations.

The U.S. Department of State should be encouraged to be an active participant in the ongoing efforts?to map the world?s cultural infrastructure toward the protection of important art objects, artistic forms, sites, and institutions located in disaster and conflict areas.

In recognition of the borderless nature of the Internet, we urge that the latest and most advanced electronic social networking technology be utilized in cultural diplomacy programs.

We believe that the pairing of technology and culture would be especially efficacious through the dissemination of hardware and software to more remote areas of the globe where cultural understanding and exchanges are especially needed.

We believe that the government should encourage and promote two-way international exchanges, acting in a convening role to bring together private organizers and private funders.

So what are the next steps? The Brademas Center is now coordinating research into what the federal government and the private sector are doing in the field of international cultural exchanges. And over the next two years, the Brademas Center will be working with a group of institutions here in the U.S. and abroad to hold a series of international conferences that will focus on various themes and challenges in international cultural engagement. The first of these meetings was held this month at Washington, DC?s Phillips Collection in partnership with the Aspen Institute; we are planning future conferences in the Persian Gulf, England, and Europe.

We hope that both the research we are undertaking and the convening of these international conferences will highlight the significant impact international arts and cultural exchanges make in the cause of peace, economic growth and stability, and mutual understanding, respect and tolerance, and make the case to policy-makers of the need for greater resources for this vital tool of diplomacy.

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