Frank Oteri sees a glimmer of hope in the midst of a summer of budget cuts to arts organizations throughout the U.S.
The composer advocate of the American Music Center* in New York and founder of the online arts magazine, New Music Box, Oteri returned with a slightly improved outlook after his visit to the State Department in Washington, D.C.
You read that correctly, the U.S. State Department.
Oteri and other prominent members of arts service organizations were invited to discuss the benefits of cross-cultural communication to the mission of the U.S. State Department.
Even if the value of the arts seems lost on some politicians, the State Department wants to persuade arts organizations that it sees a role for the arts in diplomacy.
Oteri points out that although American culture is accused of swallowing up local culture around the world, it is American music, theater and visual art that fill the seats and exhibit halls in other countries.
The State Department is currently building a portal on its website for American artists to establish exchange programs with artists around the world.
Hopefully the site will be simultaneously a place to convene and engage in important discussions, as well as to develop ties with each other and become a marketplace for the artistic community both here and abroad. For example, they are hoping that such a site can serve as a portal for matchmaking folks who want to work in exchanges overseas. As they pointed out, people-to-people relationships are invaluable to diplomacy.
Oteri points out that the Internet can get a lot done with minimal investment.
Artists have always known of the crucial role the arts play in bringing people together. Still, to have that role acknowledged by an official governmental agency, is indeed welcome.
*As of July 1, 2011, the American Music Center and Meet the Composer merged to create New Music USA.