Inviting the world to sit and stay for awhile

Originally posted on this blog: 2/20/08

In November, I first mentioned that the foundation was beginning to explore ways in which we might help expand the diversity of world culture in Cleveland. As part of our planning, I met recently with a small group of Cleveland arts leaders to learn about their plans for presenting international artists and artworks.I was deeply impressed by the effort these organizations are making to bring in voices from other cultures, and just as deeply sobered by the planning and cost realities of doing this in a way that would allow broad community access to these artists and their work.
For example, DanceCleveland’s upcoming presentation at Playhouse Square of a unique creative collaboration between the Urban Bush Women and Compagnie Jant Bi from Senegal (Feb. 29 and March 1) has been three years in the planning. Three years of planning for two performance opportunities! The project also included three weeks of residency activity for the artists; however, the public’s opportunity for interaction with these exciting artists is limited – by funding and the complexity of travel for international companies – to a single lecture/demonstration and one formal mainstage production.
This is not a criticism of DanceCleveland by any means. Rather I am in awe of the commitment and dedication it takes to manage relationship-building across national and cultural borders that is needed to foster cultural exchange and collaboration. It is a reflection of the financial and human capacity limitations that keep arts groups from being able to engage the public more deeply in the rich dialogue that cross-cultural expression can elicit.
Over the next three years, the organizations with which I met are planning to bring to Cleveland artists from Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Iran, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Uganda and Vietnam.
The Cleveland Foundation will continue to plan ways to support a deeper and more extended conversation between our community and artists from these and other global cultures. I will share those plans as they become more concrete in the coming weeks and months.