The arts are a unique medium for expression and critical inquiry, with the proven power to strengthen communication, understanding, and respect between communities and across cultures. In response to today’s unique challenges, the Asian Cultural Council and the John Brademas Center of New York University organized a 3-day convening on June 12-14, 2017. Funded by The Henry Luce Foundation, the ACC Forum: Making the Case for Cultural Exchange gathered artists, funders, and practitioners to reflect on the importance of renewing for American artists and cultural professionals to engage internationally.

Noted theatre director Peter Sellars delivered the keynote address as part of ACC’s East-West Dialogues Lecture Series, followed by 5 panel discussions accompanied by performance events by noted ACC grantees.

“We meet and we change each other.” Barbara Lanciers, Trust for Mutual Understanding, quoting TMU trustee Elizabeth McCormack

“The arts are an ongoing declaration of humanity.” Hussein Rashid, Barnard College

“Without the unique language of the arts and the experience of cultural exchange, we won’t be able to articulate ourselves or solve problems…You cannot fight with a limited vocabulary.” Kevin Doyle, Sponsored by Nobody

“…the walls that divide our world today are not made from brick, the walls are mental. And the power of moving through those mental walls belongs to each of us. It just needs one person meeting another.” Peter Sellars, UCLA

(l-r) ACC Executive Director Miho Walsh and Brademas Center Senior Fellow Alberta Arthurs facilitate the wrap-up discussion; ACC alumnae Laurel Jenkins (middle) and Chankethya Chey (right) present Soma Path, a work they developed in Cambodia, with music by composer Miguel Frasconi; panelists and attendees during open conversation; Peter Sellars delivering the keynote; CultureHub performance with performers from the Seoul Institute of the Arts and New York, brought together via telepresence at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club 

ACC Forum: Making a Case for Cultural Exchange focused less on the “why” of cultural exchange, but rather on the “how.” How to measure the success of effective models of cultural exchange. How to best express the impact of cultural exchange. How to sustain that impact, maintaining relationships after an individual or organization’s experience abroad. How technology can play a role in enhancing cultural exchange. How to provide continued support to cultural exchange programs.

Four main calls to action came from these discussions, which have been summarized here. The Brademas Center will be publishing a full report on the forum this fall.

BelowNew York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Tom Finkelpearl (far right) moderating the Forum’s final session, Contemporary Challenges and New Urgencies, with Jay Wang of USC; Paige Cottingham-Streater of the Japan-US Friendship Commission; Zeyba Rahman of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; and Sir Jonathan Mills of the Edinburgh International Cultural Summit