National Arts Journalism Program
2950 Broadway, Mail Code 7200
New York, NY 10027

tel: 212.854.1912, fax: 212.854.8129


Presented by The National Arts Journalism Program,
the Center for Arts and Culture and Arts International

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Monday & Tuesday April 14-15, 2003

Support is generously provided by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Summary | Schedule | View publication


Conference Summary

Mounting concern about America’s image abroad has focused new attention on the use of art and culture as a diplomatic tool. Reviving the official deployment of culture to boost receptivity to American values has been the subject of recent debate, with the chairman of the House Committee on International Relations asking, "How is it that the country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue has allowed such a destructive and parodied image of itself?"

Over the past decade, funding for U.S. government-sponsored cultural and educational programs abroad has fallen by over 33 percent. Although the United States has largely dismantled the apparatus of cultural diplomacy built up during the Cold War, September 11 and its aftermath have challenged the wisdom of that move. At a time when many in the international arena argue that diplomacy works best when backed by force, can culture help as well to correct misperceptions and to present a more nuanced image to critics of what is often deemed American-inspired globalization? Or are current commercial exports of U.S. culture an adequate representation of American society and its values?

ARTS & MINDS will explore cultural diplomacy’s history, viability and prospects. Prominent U.S. and foreign diplomats, policy makers, historians, artists, arts administrators and journalists will probe whether new arts programs might play a role in recasting the U.S. image, explore the efficacy of American cultural diplomacy during its Cold War heyday, and analyze the intensive cultural diplomacy campaigns now being waged by foreign nations with a view towards drawing lessons for U.S. policy. Special attention will be paid to the outlook for U.S. cultural diplomatic initiatives in the Islamic world.

Preliminary Conference Schedule

DAY ONE: Monday, April 14, 4:30-6:45 P.M

3:30-4:30 p.m.: Registration opens

4:30-5:00 p.m.: Conference Welcome: Michael Janeway, director, National Arts Journalism Program; Ellen Lovell, president and CEO, Center for Arts & Culture; Noreen Tomassi, president, Arts International

Introduction: Andras Szanto, deputy director, National Arts Journalism Program

5:00-6:45 p.m.: America¨s Global Image: Short-Term Branding or Long-Term Exchange?
How is the United States viewed by the rest of the world and to what degree do perceptions and misperceptions of its culture shape this image? Can public relations efforts improve foreigners¨ view of American society and values or is a more long-term investment required? Along with highlighting the range of American cultural achievements, how can U.S. policy makers and arts institutions help promote artistic exchange and cooperation as a means of encouraging greater international understanding?

Plenary Presentation: "Cultural Diplomacy and U.S. Security" by Helena Kane Finn, fellow in diplomatic studies, Council on Foreign Relations, and former acting assistant secretary of state, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Department of State

Moderator: Hodding Carter, president, Knight Foundation, and former State Department spokesman

Panelists: Andrew Kohut, director, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; Richard Bulliet, professor of history, Columbia University; Joshua Muravchik, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; John Romano, screenwriter and producer

DAY TWO: Tuesday, April 15, 9 A.M.-4:30 P.M

9-9:30 a.m.: Welcome & Introduction: Michael Z. Wise, NAJP research fellow and contributing editor, Architecture

Keynote Address: Trisha Brown, choreographer and artistic director, Trisha Brown Dance Company

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Cultural Diplomacy in Historical Perspective—From 19th Century World’s Fairs to the Cold War
This panel of historians will trace and analyze the use of cultural diplomacy over centuries, including the creation in 1938 of a division of cultural relations in the State Department amid considerable American ambivalence about such an endeavor. During the Cold War, the United States flooded Europe with American orchestras, dance groups, art exhibits and touring intellectuals. Many of these activities were covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. The panel will explore this campaign as well as the use of black musicians as unofficial U.S. envoys at a time when their civil rights were under attack at home.

Moderator: Volker Berghahn, professor of history, Columbia University

Panelists: John Brown, research associate, Georgetown University, and U.S. Foreign Service cultural affairs officer; Frank Ninkovich, professor of history, St. John's University; Penny Von Eschen, professor of history, University of Michigan; Michael Warner, historian, Central Intelligence Agency

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: The Cultural Diplomacy of Other Nations
Well before the United States began to deploy culture as an instrument of power abroad, European powers like Germany, Britain and France had become old hands at cultural diplomacy. Many foreign governments continue to support actively the showcasing of their national cultural achievements as an integral part of their diplomatic strategy. This panel will survey the activities of institutions like the Goethe Institut, the British Council, the Alliance Française, and the Mexican Cultural Institutes, and ask whether they hold lessons for U.S. policy makers.

Moderator: Alexander Stille, author and editor, Correspondence: An International Review of Culture & Society

Panelists: Peter Soetje, director, Goethe Institut, New York; Jean-Rene Gehan, cultural counselor, French Embassy; Andy Mackay, director, British Council USA; Arturo Sarukhan, consul general of Mexico; Jeanne Wikler, general director for cultural affairs, U.S., Consulate General of the Netherlands

12:30-1:30 p.m.: Lunch Break

1:30-3 p.m.: Can Cultural Diplomacy Improve America’s Standing in the Islamic World?
The United States faces an epic challenge from Islamic fundamentalists violently opposed to American power. Can greater efforts to convey a more nuanced image of American culture help reach young people and moderates in Islamic nations? What are the pitfalls in using cultural initiatives in societies where the United States is a lightning rod for such deep anger and resentment? How effective are recent U.S.-backed efforts like the newly established Radio Sawa, which uses Western and Arabic pop music as a lure for young listeners to tune into news from Washington’s perspective?

Moderator: Caryle Murphy, religion reporter, The Washington Post

Panelists: Peter Awn, dean, School of General Studies, and professor of religion, Columbia University; Bert Kleinman, senior managing consultant to Radio Sawa and Radio Farda; Samer Shehata, professor of Arab studies, Georgetown University; Faouzi Skali, founder and director, Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

3:15-4:30 p.m.: Culture as a Tool of Statecraft: Case Studies
Several U.S. ambassadors have regarded culture as an important aspect of representing their country abroad and have pursued inventive ways of using the arts for diplomatic ends. This panel will examine how and why that was done, and will also look at cultural diplomacy from the vantage point of a leading American artist who has lectured abroad under the State Department aegis. Panelists will also discuss whether the Cold War-era model of cultural diplomacy can be adopted for use today, or if new circumstances make it preferable to create a privately-funded entity better equipped to prevent propagandistic distortions and avoid a U.S. government stigma with foreign audiences.

Moderator: Celestine Bohlen, culture writer, The New York Times

Panelists: Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist; David Fraher, executive director, Arts Midwest; David Denby, film critic, The New Yorker; Felix Rohatyn, president, Rohatyn Associates, and former U.S. ambassador to France; Cynthia Schneider, professor of art history, Georgetown University, and former U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands

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