June 22, 2002

Culturally Attaché

This past week I participated in the The World Mediation Summit here in Washington, DC. Attended by government workers, cultural representatives from numerous embassies, artists, and cultural workers, it was sponsored by the US Department of Art and Technology and the Goethe-Institut.

In my duel roles as both Deputy Secretary of the Department (working directly under the Secretary, Randall Packer) and Under Secretary for the Office of Artist and Homeland Insecurity, I was asked to give some opening remarks:

The events of September 11 have caused all Americans to look at the world and our lives in new ways. We are beginning to question what it means to be an American within the greater world stage. Like Pearl Harbor, the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks have once again jolted us out of our isolationism. This presents us with a unique opportunity. Let us reevaluate the relationship between our government and its policies and the contributions of artists and other cultural workers.

We are standing at a divide, just as we were soon after December 7, 1941. We can redefine our country by building taller, more impenetrable walls or we can promote our way of life by looking for new ways to solve our problems.

In Milan Kundera’s novel, Immortality, a 19th century artist, Goethe, meets a 19th century politician, Napoleonn, in front of a late 20th century group of photographers and news media. While Goethe has never heard the phrase “sound bite,” he is familiar with its essence and so recognizes Napoleon’s intent when he proclaims “The theatre should become a school of the people.”

For centuries artists have developed creative ways of looking at the world. So, why aren’t more artists teaching at this school of the people? Employ our strengths and the country will be stronger and more able to adapt to the changing world around us. Work with us to become more inclusive domestically and more responsible internationally.

Our intent, this evening, is to provide you with sound bites. We trust you will understand their essence and know how to put them to good use.

In my previous position as Director of ArtFBI, I fought for seriously considering the importance of artists in our society. The US Department of Art and Technology hopes to take this further by working with both our goverment and the international community to use artist expertise to help solve domestic and world problems.

The Department promotes media art, cultural growth, the artist voice in reshaping public policy, and improved aesthetic standards for all Americans in our virtual world. The World Mediation Summit culminated with the signing of the Articles of Artistic Mediation, a document forged to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and cultural understanding by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war, by the prescription of open, informed cultural dialogue between nations, by the establishment of the understanding of the aspirations of the artist as a model for spiritual and moral conduct among Governments, and by the maintenance of the role of the artist as a mediator on the world stage.

You can read Secretary Packer’s address to the assembly on the US Department of Art and Technology’s web site. And you will be hearing from us, as our ranks swell, in the near future.

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