Connecting Through Culture
As part of its ongoing project on cultural connectivity, the Brademas Center has convened several international conferences to bring together artists, foundation and cultural institution leaders, scholars and policymakers to examine the opportunities and challenges of engagement between the Western and Muslim-Majority Communities.
The Center is working to enhance visibility and resources for international cultural engagement in the cause of peace, economic growth and stability, and mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance. The goal is an expansion of exchange programs and structural reforms to foster better strategic planning, coordination, and implementation by foundations and governments. The project has been ongoing since 2009.
Given the host of challenges pressing on the relationship between Muslim-Majority Communities and Western states – from security to energy, trade to tourism, environmental issues to belief structures – greater cultural understanding across societies is critical today. Through exploration of activity and networks in the field, the Brademas Center, with its various partners, seeks new opportunities to advance and encourage cultural exchange.
October 10, 2018
Building on the work of the March 2017 funders briefing Addressing Islamophobia: The Roles of Arts and Culture, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program and the John Brademas Center of New York University are hosting a second meeting this October. The goal for our learning commons is to continue stimulating a cross-pollination of ideas, strengthen connections and plant seeds for greater collaboration among funders working in this area and along its intersections.
Beyond Islamophobia: How American Stories Transform Communities will build on the 2017 conversations to highlight fresh thinking from artists and activists who disrupt the noxious cultural narrative and advance understanding and social cohesion for mutual well-being of MASA and broader communities. Moving beyond the defensive frame of fighting Islamophobia, their fresh thinking and experiences in the public square through unique storytelling intends to inspire and encourage engagement and support for this work.
In April 2018, The John Brademas Center of New York University convened an international group of scholars, artists, and cultural practitioners to deliberate a question: “Are the Arts Essential?”
At NYU’s campus in Florence, Italy, La Pietra, these specialists took the customary deliberations about arts and culture into new, substantive, and shaping discussions. Beyond “leisure” or “entertainment,” beyond art’s personal impacts, beyond contributions to tourism, community building, or the classroom, do the arts and culture power progress? This convening asked if (and how) the arts provide structures and strategies for social change, how they help define peoples and nations, how they deal with actual matters of life and death. Are the arts essential in ways that economics and medicine and politics are? If so, how is this manifest? What are the theoretical bases that ground the arts and govern our expectations of them?
Islamophobia is escalating rapidly across the country, fueling fear, discrimination and hate crimes against Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. In recent months, we have borne witness to a growing number of hostile acts including vandalism, intimidation and verbal and physical attacks on vulnerable people. This growing crisis has propelled multidisciplinary funders to seek out new ideas and strategies to be responsive to galloping need.
The funders briefing will be a day of learning and discussion with creative thought leaders, artists and philanthropy professionals on how arts and culture can diffuse the cultural tensions and “othering” that drive Islamophobia. What is the role of art in shifting cultural narratives? What kind of creative partnerships and collaborations can serve as an effective response to encourage pluralism and harmony in our communities? What meaningful mechanisms currently exist or can be adapted to magnify mutual wellbeing?This briefing offers a chance for funders to weigh these and other vital questions and propose concrete next steps for action.
Forum: Making the Case for International Exchange
NYU School of Law - 2017 - The Asian Cultural Council and the NYU John Brademas Center have histories of supporting international cultural mobility and reach. In response to contemporary challenges, these institutions, with the support of The Henry Luce Foundation, convened a two-day forum for funders and practitioners experienced in cultural exchange. The forum examined the importance of renewing and extending opportunities for American artists and cultural professionals to engage internationally, and considered lessons from the past, best practices, and present day arguments for a fresh, international cultural mandate.
- Listen to East-West Dialogue with Peter Sellars
- Coming Soon: Conference Report
NYU School of Law - 2017 - This day-long funders briefing on “Addressing Islamophobia in America: The Roles of Art and Culture,” was organized by ArtPlace America, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Ford Foundation, the New York Community Trust, the New York Foundation, and the John Brademas Center of New York University. The partner institutions built on the work of an earlier conference at the Ford Foundation in 2016 on “Confronting Islamophobia in America Today.”
NYU's Villa La Pietra - 2015 - This conference examined cultural connections in a specific contemporary context — the pressing need of Western societies and global Muslim communities to comprehend each other and communicate with each other. The conference aimed to identify ideas for increasing and improving the ways this work can be done. The discussion built on the findings of an earlier meeting of practitioners in this work, “U.S. Cultural Engagement with Global Muslim Communities” held at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in the fall of 2013.
Rockefeller's Bellagio Center - 2013 - This conference offered discussions about the state of the field centered on the idea of "global circuits." Participants suggested that practitioners, both independent and rooted in organizations, formed networks of connection through which art and artists flow, ranging from very informal and casual — in which practitioners may not have even met but share a common source of funding or presentation — to the most deliberate and formal. Likewise, participants emphasized the large degree of variation in programs, venue types, and disciplines, ranging from traditional to contemporary and hybrid forms, present in the field.
Ditchley Foundation - 2012 - This conference assembled a diverse group, with the co-sponsorship of the Brademas Center and the Ditchley Foundation, to analyze what cultural diplomacy could offer in today's world. The group looked at the balance of promotion of national interest and increasing international understanding, to see if it could really work in helping to foster mutual engagement between different peoples.
NYU Wagner - 2009 - The Brademas Center and NYU Wagner convened a group of experts to explore the public policy implications for American arts and culture of a renewed focus on U.S. public diplomacy and issued a call for an expansion of international arts and cultural exchanges in the service of this new direction. The Center issued a report outlining the opinions and deliberations of the participating experts.
Increased activity and interest in international cultural communication characterize our time. There is an inevitability to this, given the ubiquity and reach of the internet, the easy availability of film and media images, the speed with which ideas and influences travel. It is also true that international cultural circuits are well developed. From film and performance festivals to traveling exhibitions, from traditional stages to streets and public spaces, from established to unexpected platforms and formats, artists today have a global reach.
With the opportunities that technology and other circuits provide, there is also a growing sense of the importance, the urgency, of cultural connections. Culture and the arts, cultural interpreters, contemporary makers, and creative ventures have a fresh relevance, inspiring currents of understanding and engagement globally. As peoples strive to express their values and aspirations, their cultures, to each other, geo-cultural forces become significant.