Leaders from DC’s Arts Community Strategize with International Participants on Promoting Social Change through the Arts

IVLP participants and leaders from DC’s Art Community pose for a group photo in Meridian House after a successful speed convening session
IVLP participants and leaders from DC’s Art Community pose for a group photo in Meridian House after a successful speed convening session

On the morning of June 23rd, Meridian hosted one of its popular "speed convening" sessions with a multi-regional group, as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on "Promoting Social Change through the Arts." The group of 23 visitors included entrepreneurs, such as Mr. Strongovskyi, the co-founder of Dobra Lystivka (Kind Postcard) project — which promotes Ukrainian art in Ukraine and abroad with the sales benefiting children with special needs. It also featured leaders in government, academia and civil society who support and inspire innovative arts programming. The international group engaged with six DC-based experts on promoting social change through the arts, which included Betty Siegel, Director of VSA and Accessibility, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Mr. Warren Williams, National Symphony Orchestra; Ms. Christie Walser, Executive Director, Project Create; Mr. Mazi Mutafa, Executive Director, Words, Beats, and Life; Ms. Philippa Hughes, Founder, Pink Line Project; and Ms. Lissa Rosenthal-Yoffe, Executive Director, DC Collaborative.

Among other areas of interest, the series of small-group conversations focused on how to overcome two main obstacles that face the international arts community: accessibility and funding. As the visitors discussed challenges they have faced and goals they are reaching towards, the U.S. presenters asked questions and shared personal experiences and suggestions for achieving success. While an Australian advocate for refugee rights explained the challenges she faces finding the resources to fund a fully handicapped accessible event, Ms. Siegel gave examples of ways in which non-profit art organizations can incrementally implement handicapped accessible amenities, starting with facilities or services that benefit the existing client base. Another topic of discussion was the accessibility of fine arts to disadvantaged youth. U.S. presenters were asked how their organizations worked to break that barrier. Mr. Williams detailed how he was actively involved in bringing the symphony to underprivileged neighborhoods across DC and the surrounding area. He referenced one example in which an orchestra performed in a club venue. He explained that these types of initiatives meet disadvantaged populations half way; by taking the orchestra out of the formal setting you are taking a step toward breaking the conceptual barrier to classical music.

The 23 participants of the IVLP initiative will continue on a three-week program which includes visits to New York, New Orleans, Cleveland, Iowa City, St. Louis, and Santa Fe for professional meetings, workshops, networking, and cultural activities. Along the way they hope to gain new skills and approaches as they work towards improving society through the arts in various ways across the globe.

Project summary

Leaders from DC’s Arts Community Strategize with International Participants on Promoting Social Change through the Arts | June 2016
Number of Visitors: 23
Number of Attendees: 6
Regions: East Asia and Pacific, Near East and North Africa, Western Hemisphere, Europe and Eurasia, Africa, South and Central Asia
Countries: Australia, Bahamas, Belarus, Bolivia, Chile, Croatia, Haiti, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Norway, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy
Program Areas: Diplomacy
Partners: Public Sector