The United States already enjoys a vast and diverse spectrum of cultures, but demographic trends into the next century will continue to dramatically transform our population and further enrich our society. One of the exciting opportunities in the new millennium will involve developing programs that build bridges of understanding between cultures and that celebrate the different visions, traditions and art forms that make up our national identity.
Through its support of international exchanges, the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) is helping audiences, artists and cultural organizations experience other cultures. Designed to foster long-term involvement in international cultural exchange, the OAC's International Program encourages Ohio artists and arts organizations to form partnerships with arts professionals abroad. By providing grants to organizations and individuals, the program offers Ohioans unprecedented access to a variety of cultural experiences, ideas and opportunities through international arts projects and innovative partnerships.
"The program is committed to bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds in a shared effort to develop understanding of each other's cultures," says Wayne Lawson, OAC executive director. "We believe that as individuals experience the arts, they explore what they have in common, as well as their differences. Art speaks many languages and focuses on quality, talent and competence without discriminating."
Cultural Understanding is Good Business
Ohio's aggressive promotion of international trade and arts exchanges has placed it among the top 10 states in international trade. The Ohio Arts Council's International Program works closely with the state's overseas trade offices to develop and maintain partnerships among national and international governments, businesses and arts institutions. Through trade offices in Brussels, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and Toronto, the OAC helps link the importance of shared cultural experiences to building successful international business relationships.
Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution follows the artist's transformation from an academic painter trained in Mexico to his engagement with the European avant-garde. It explores Rivera's activities in Mexico and the United States, where he became legendary for his political art and his efforts to forge a new national identity for Mexicans, as well as his humanistic vision of progress toward a utopian society.
Diego Rivera-Self-Portrait/Autorretrato, 1906. Oil on canvas, 55 x 44 cm. Col. Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Gobierno del Estado de Sinaloa.
Ohio's international exchanges begin by establishing a framework of cooperation. The current exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution, grew out of an agreement of cultural cooperation that former Governor George V. Voinovich signed with Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Institute for Fine Arts) in 1994. The signing of the agreement opened the door for administrative, exhibition and educational exchanges. Exhibitions to date include Visions of America: Urban Realism 1900-1945, which premiered at the Columbus Museum of Art, and Mexico Ahora: Punto de Partida/Mexico Now: Point of Departure, an exhibition of contemporary Mexican art now completing a tour of seven states and Puerto Rico.
What Participants Say
The exhibition of Rivera's work is the pinnacle of this partnership. Rivera is considered second only to Picasso among 20th century artists in his productivity and influence. For this exhibit, nearly 120 works in a variety of media, including masterworks never before shown in the United States, are being lent by museums and private collectors in Europe, Japan and Mexico.
"In large measure, the success of Diego Rivera: Art and Revolution was made possible by Executive Director Wayne Lawson and the Ohio Arts Council's International Program," says Robert P. Bergman, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. "Wayne and his staff forged significant ties with the Mexican government through organizing Visions of America, an exhibition that toured the Columbus Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art, and the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City in 1996. The Rivera project has expanded the scope of this worthy exchange between the two governments, the Ohio Arts Council, and museums of the United States and Mexico."
In addition to its collaboration with Mexico, the OAC has supported successful exchanges among artists and academic and cultural arts institutions in Argentina, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico and Russia. The arts council has also developed partnerships with the Kettering Fund in Dayton, Ohio; and the Citizens Exchange Council (ArtsLink) in New York City. These partnerships give Ohio organizations opportunities to host Central and Eastern European artists and arts administrators for one-month residencies.
Ohio is in the geographic center of the U.S. business and art world. Ohio companies, arts organizations and institutions are within 500 miles of 60 percent of American and 42 percent of Canadian markets and audiences. More than 50 percent of the nation's income is spent within that geographic area.
Year started: 1988 Exhibitions: 6 Residencies: 35
Focus: The International Program offers professional assistance grants and guidance to organizations preparing for foreign tours, exhibitions and exchanges. Assistance includes securing meetings abroad, planning international tours or hosting foreign visitors' tours. In June, the OAC will host an International Arts Administration Symposium for professionals in countries with whom the OAC has cultural agreements.