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Cultural diplomacy: giving voice to the arts and culture

October 15, 2018

What difference can Canadian culture make abroad? All the difference in the world. Today, as citizens of the global village, we must ensure the diversity of voices in our society and our democratic values help promote a creative, altruistic, resilient, peaceful, harmonious and prosperous civilization for all—a civilization in which everyone can express themselves fully and freely.

To achieve this, our artists must have a larger presence on the world stage. We must build on the power of the arts to reinvent and their ability to captivate and engage in true cultural diplomacy—beyond excessive economic, geopolitical, organizational, political, national or even digital demands.

Our arts on the world stage—and taking a seat at the table

The Canada Council is committed to increasing the international presence of the arts through its Arts Abroad program and its various international initiatives (the Venice Biennale in Architecture, CanadaHub at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the delegation at Womex, the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Americas Cultural Summit).

Meanwhile, the Council has a seat at the table for international discussions where the future is being shaped through the lens of the arts. In the fall of 2018, a series of meetings with funding counterparts, cultural leaders, elected officials and artists are on the agenda for Director and CEO Simon Brault. The objective: to strengthen ties and networks in an effort to renew cultural diplomacy through the arts and build shared leadership. The topics of discussion are in line with Canada’s priorities (the digital world, equity, accessibility, diversity), but Simon Brault’s main objective is to add cultural diplomacy to the European agenda.

The arts and diplomacy

The first important meeting will aim to find common ground between the Americas and Europe. Simon Brault will present an overview of the conclusions from the Americas Cultural Summit on cultural citizenship to the European Chapter of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) in England.

A focus day co-facilitated by Simon Brault and Ambassador Isabelle Hudon marks a productive and favourable opportunity for exchanges. The Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris has invited many cultural representatives to participate in workshops on various topics relating to cultural diplomacy, including public diplomacy, shared leadership, and cultural citizenship.

Another highlight of the trip will be Simon Brault’s conference on the renewal of cultural diplomacy at the Cercle France-Amériques, organized in partnership with the Canadian Cultural Centre and the Embassy of Canada. As part of this conference, Simon Brault has set out a clear vision of the role the arts must play in public diplomacy:

“Artists are not—and must not feel obligated to be—ambassadors in the political sense, but they are voices. And although their voices can often be conflicting and critical of our reality, artists express concerns that politicians may not even dare to raise, concerns that hit home with every human being whom their art speaks to, whether in their own country or beyond its borders. This freedom of expression is the guardian of democracy and of its renewal. The complexity and uniqueness of artistic and literary works invite the viewer to interpret, reflect, and explore the other, all with an open mind. Art provides a forum for genuine, human discussion, where predetermined roles cease to exist. Art forces us to re-evaluate our relationship with an object or idea whose meaning or scope is never static.” [Excerpt from Simon Brault’s speaking notes at the Cercle France-Amériques]

Those are just a few of the international events on the Council CEO’s busy European agenda.

Upcoming discussions will surely reflect these topics, including those at the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations (CORIM), CINARSENARTES (a performing arts conference in Mexico City) and the ArtsLink Assembly in New York City.

Tagged As International Events