Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Beyond Cultural Diplomacy: Arts, Policy and Change

“Despite the obvious benefits that collaboration can bring, there is not enough of a two-way dialogue between socially-engaged artists and policymakers. Policymakers often dismiss what artists have to say because it is not the formal language of public administrators, lawmakers, and diplomats, and because quantitative or scientific method-derived evaluation models do not easily convey the impact of artists’ work. Finding new ways to connect likeminded – yet isolated – groups in order to create broader constituencies for human-centered public policy may be crucial to our collective future…… The Nexus strives for more open dialogue and collaboration between the creative and policy camps. It seeks to empower artists to navigate funding and policy structures, while policymakers gain access to creative approaches for re-framing policy issues and designing campaigns to effectively disseminate new ideas and outcomes to a broader public. ” ( NEXUS, WPI )


I love what the World Policy Institute is doing here with its newest program Arts Policy Nexus. The idea driving this new faction is that every individual is both citizen and artist. Artists can provide a fresh new way to help cultural policy makers in their decisions. For the last two years the WPI has had events titles “Beyond Culture Diplomacy: Arts, Policy and change. These events and the program all year round intend to engage both the artists and policy maker in “meaningful and collaborative dialogue”.

The project maintains a very interesting Blog (PLEASE Check it out)… where stories are being told through artists that have the hope of engaging cultural and public diplomacy leaders. The stories being told are both frightening and beautiful. One very eye-opening example showcases a conflict I was completely unaware of : Human Trafficking: The Sinai Phenomenon.  Israeli filmmaker Keren Shayo partnered with Swedish-Eritrean journalist Meron Estefanos to produce “Sound of Torture,” a documentary revealing the struggles of fleeing Eritrean refugees.

Shayo hopes to engage and awaken both political leaders and general public about this issue. Following the completion of the film she held a screening in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), “which she hoped would motivate the Israeli government to provide immediate relief for the refugees.” While the film did generate allot of response and interest when, “then the war began, the interest was easily forgotten.” (Shayo)  This is just one example of projects supported by the WPI, there are many more! I encourage you to look through the blog and see what else is happening.

This topic is very interesting and something that I think we as arts managers should really think carefully about. Why are we “managing” the arts and what long term good can be gained through our field?  Why are you choosing to go into this field and how do you see your work impacting your direct or indirect communities and society?


2 comments on “Beyond Cultural Diplomacy: Arts, Policy and Change

  1. emkais
    September 25, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m so intrigued by this gap. I think art is such a powerful tool for cross-cultural understanding, diplomacy, and social justice. It’s a shame this rift exists, and even more of a shame that it’s frequently discredited. This is exactly what has inspired my studies and I hope to aid in the development of more progress in artistic cross-cultural understanding. I’m inspired by organizations like the World Monuments Fund, Creativetime or the Arts Incubator Program. These programs give art a social job and tackle issues head on and creatively.

  2. sobashhere
    September 26, 2014

    Amazing blog find! Really excited to see a space dedicated to discussing this notion of artists as policymakers. I think a big challenge is that most arts organizations do not include an employee of government affairs as part of their organizational structures. Yes this garners an additional paycheck for the organization to provide, but when funding for instance is gravely affected by policy, shouldn’t arts managers be actively engaged with advocating for the arts? National service organizations such as Dance/USA advocate for the arts on a federal level, but what about the state level? There need to be advocates for state legislation to assist many of the small arts organizations struggling with state policy. I believe artists as individual voices can only go so far, we really need artists to be collective in their initiatives.

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