I would have pinned the Obamas as more French Impressionist lovers, but alas, they have come out as Modern and Contemporary folk, which endear them even more to me. Tyler Green (he writes the blog, Modern Art Notes) is not completely satisfied with the art-loving gesture of the President and his brood. After all the campaign talk about supporting the arts, all of us working in the arts certainly didn’t expect such blatant non-action from the White House after we elected Obama into office, a feeling Green echoes in his post. Green makes some terrific points about innovation and needing a new, progressive federal arts policy and initiatives. He writes, “Now we should demand substance.” And I say, “Yes!”
Karen Brooks Hopkins took to the Huffington Post today to criticize Michael Kaiser’s ideas about cultural diplomacy for the arts administration field, which she deems narrow-minded. You can read the post by clicking here and come to your own conclusions whether or not you are in favor of Hopkins or Kaiser, or a little of both, but I am more apt to side with the former. Kaiser’s ideas to stop sending dance troupes, orchestras, etc. overseas and instead send administrators to other countries to help them implement all the great ideas we have here seems to be just another form of American arrogance. It aligns with the thinking that as a so-called democratic society, those of us in the U.S. have the best ideas and should share them with the rest of the world, who will be eternally grateful for our knowledge. Now, I’m not bashing knowledge-sharing or Michael Kaiser; it is not about that but about the approach he recommends. In contrast, I side 100% with Hopkins, who in response to Kaiser, writes, “I believe that cultural diplomacy can encompass many things, including the export of both our artistic and managerial talents. The world’s problems often seem intractable, and sometimes we are simply too far apart for negotiation, mediation, even basic discussion. When talking just won’t do, art can be a way of opening doors, getting acquainted and learning more about the other side.”
As artists, arts administrators, performing arts managers, and museum leaders, what should our stance be on issues of cultural diplomacy and advocating for action from the White House in the development of a dynamic U.S. arts policy? What role should each and every one of us play as being cultural ambassadors to other countries and in other cultures, even those who live in our own back yard and who frequent our institutions?