As I get ready to leave Brazil on the last leg of my Eisenhower Fellowship my mind is racing. It has been an incredible couple of weeks here, but as I sit at the airport now, I’m reminded of the world I am returning to and how I start to connect the dots. I’m not sure how coherent my thoughts are right now as I’m really tired, but I’m going to attempt to throw out a thought or two. (And if that doesn’t work, I have lots of great photos you can look at!) Continue reading
My time in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte flew by and I am way behind on sharing my journey! The people and the places I have been visiting have been extraordinary. I thought I would share a bit about one of the places in Rio that completely stole my heart… in a big way. Continue reading
Yesterday was my first full day in Brazil on my Eisenhower Fellowship. And in all honesty, it was one of the hardest days of my life. I had imagined it would play out much differently. I woke up at 6:00 am in Rio de Janeiro and immediately turned on CNN. Before a word was uttered, I saw the red and blue map and knew we were in uncharted territory. Continue reading
My blog may have been quiet since I returned from Northern Ireland and Ireland in May, but the insights I gained from the trip have been ringing out loud and clear in everything I do at COCA and beyond.
And, though it’s hard to believe, here I am ready to head out on the final leg of my 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship journey. I leave today for Brazil on a trip that will take me from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte to Sao Paulo to visit and learn from 30 different arts, culture and community organizations, schools, businesses and government agencies. My travels will take me into Rio’s favelas to visit with organizations working in some of the country’s most impoverished areas; to the extraordinary Inhotim, a unique and massive botanical garden which houses one of the most significant contemporary art collections in the world as well as a botanical collection containing rare species from every continent; to one of Sao Paulo’s most cutting edge electronic media organizations…and everything in between!
Brazil is the largest country in South America, with 82 of every 100 citizens living in cities. The combined population of the three cities I will visit is nearly 21 million! Brazil has been one of the fastest growing economies in recent years, but, as is often the case, rapid growth and urbanization have led to mounting social, political and environmental challenges. So where does arts and culture fit in all of this? That is exactly what I hope to learn. Is culture at the core (or should it be) of the public policy agenda? What is the role of arts and culture in major cities…can investing in arts and culture address deeply ingrained inequities, strengthen social capital, and/or fuel the economy? How are the arts making cities more livable, more sustainable? And how do arts and culture shape the identity of cities?
It’s a fascinating time to be traveling abroad. As I touch down in Rio, Americans will be headed to the polls to finally bring to an end this polarizing campaign season. With a recently impeached president, Brazil’s political climate hasn’t exactly been congenial to say the least. I imagine that both of our countries’ politics will color many of my conversations. It is really quite fitting, because Art has always been political – it shapes our cultural identity, it sways public opinion, it gives voice to marginalized and oppressed groups, it raises our consciousness to social issues of our day, and it transforms our society. And did you know that those who participate in the arts are 20% more likely to vote? That’s you….so get to the polls and VOTE!
I embark on this journey with an open mind and an open heart, and look forward to sharing my experiences (and a little bit of Portuguese) with you along the way.
Até mais tarde! (See you later!)
First, let me clarify one thing, the grass is indeed greener here in Ireland! Their lush green landscape is stunning. However, when it comes to our greatest challenges and opportunities in the arts, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the pond. In fact, some of our core issues are pretty universal.
I’m wrapping up several wonderful days in Dublin, Ireland, and heading back to St. Louis today. I met with 19 different leaders across this grand city, and consumed plenty of coffee and tea in the process! Continue reading
When you walk into the heart of the city, you feel as if you are entering a giant party. It is packed with activity – people everywhere, musicians sharing their craft with the masses, food and drink galore. Quickly, your spirit starts to lift and a smile sneaks across your face. It’s eclectic, lively, and social. It’s Galway, Ireland. Continue reading
There is so much history, politics and art packed in Derry-Londonderry, a city of just over 100,000 people. We packed a lot into our two days! This incredibly beautiful place on the western edge of Northern Ireland sits on the River Foyle. It has an old-world European charm, with narrow, steep streets that meander in and out of the quaint village. Continue reading
Belfast was a whirlwind – meetings and visits with more than 20 people working in a variety of arts, education and community-based organizations. I don’t know where to begin, there are so many take-aways. The people are genuine, passionate and determined. The city has a beautiful grit and colorful character, but enough polish and shine to mark their optimistic outlook. When you reflect on the decades of violence and conflict that they experienced, you come to fully appreciate the magnitude of the statement they are making with their harbor – lined with new, gleaming glass buildings. The glass may be fragile, but the city seems unbreakable. They are not the city they once were, and they are ready to move forward. Continue reading
As you drive into Corrymeela in Ballycastle at Northern Ireland’s northern tip, an amazing calm washes over you. The serene landscape and beautiful sea view may have something to do with that. Corrymeela is Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. Its founding was not a reaction to the Troubles, rather it grew out of post-World War II vision for how we could build communities based on equity, diversity, interdependence and sustainability. Its founder, Ray Davey, experienced the brutality of combat and prisoner of war camps in WWII and upon emerging as a survivor, wanted to imagine a new way of being. Corrymeela was founded in 1965 and soon after, the Troubles erupted in Northern Ireland. It was a seminal period for the organization. They were right where they needed to be when they were needed most. Describing their work today, Corrymeela’s Executive Director Colin Craig says they “work at the fracture lines in people’s lives and in the world.” How inspiring and how courageous.
3,981 miles, 3 hours of sleep, 4 cups of coffee, and we made it to Belfast, Northern Ireland. We hit the ground running. Day 1 was filled with conversations, walking, sunshine and a pan European rock-n-roll band. Not a bad start. I am instantly struck by the authenticity and warmth of the people in Ireland. After a 2-hour conversation with my extraordinary in-country coordinators (and now friends!) Siobhan McGuigan and Esther Haller-Clarke from type AB to review my robust itinerary for my time in Ireland, I was off for my first meeting. First up, I had the pleasure of talking with Emma Jordan, Artistic Director, Prime Cut Productions. An accomplished actress and director, Emma recently received 2015 Spirit of Festival Award at the Belfast International Arts Festival and her production of Scorch was the 2015 winner of the Irish Times Best New Play. Quite impressive. Continue reading