On June 26, 2014, Meridian convened diplomats, policy makers and leaders from the arts and cultural communities for a conversation on Cultural Diplomacy at the Forefront: Views from Around the Globe. Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Meridian’s President and CEO, opened the event before welcoming The Honorable Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, to share remarks on the importance of cultural diplomacy as a critical tool of public diplomacy.
Assistant Secretary Ryan outlined how the U.S. State Department utilizes cultural diplomacy to promote dialogue and strengthen people-to-people relations around the world. She stated, “Sharing one’s culture, whether through arts or food or sports or films or music or technology, is one of the most enduring ways to build bonds between countries. The State Department values cultural diplomacy and sees it as a key tool in our diplomatic toolkit.”
Following Assistant Secretary Ryan’s framing remarks, Dr. Curtis Sandberg, Senior Vice President of Meridian’s Arts and Cultural Programs, welcomed discussants to the stage including Dana Al Marashi, Head of Heritage and Social Affairs Department, Embassy of the United Arab Emirates; Antonio Bartoli, Head of the Cultural Office, Embassy of Italy; Dr. Emilienne Baneth-Nouailhetas, Attaché for University Cooperation, Embassy of France; and Masato Otaka, Minister for Public Affairs, Embassy of Japan.
The panel discussion highlighted the efforts countries employ to showcase their unique cultures through culinary diplomacy, sports diplomacy, music diplomacy, fashion diplomacy – among others – to reach new audiences around the world. Discussants cited examples of recent initiatives and activities that their countries are undertaking to advance cultural exchange and to promote international understanding with the United States. Dr. Sandberg opened the discussion and invited the following key representatives to share their perspectives from the floor: Laura Ramirez Rasgado, Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mexican Cultural Institute, Embassy of Mexico; and Chef Victor Albisu, Del Campo/Taco Bamba and American Chef Corps. Additional questions from the audience focused on the inclusion of music and fashion in cultural diplomacy and the importance of socio-economic diversity in outreach efforts.
The panel discussion was followed by a reception and viewing of Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates, which was officially launched at Meridian International Center on May 22, 2014. The exhibition, which brought Emirati artwork and artists to the U.S., tells the story of the UAE’s rich history, culture and rapid development through the works of 25 notable Emirati artists. Past Forward represents the first major touring exhibition of Emirati art in the world, with over 50 paintings, sculptures, photographs and other artworks on view in Meridian’s Cafritz Galleries through July 13, 2014.