US RAOs Partner on International Cultural Diplomacy Projects 

A person holds an oud
Caravanserai: American Voices Artist Retreat in Chicago, IL. Photo courtesy of Arts Midwest

In 2011, the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations formed a new partnership to advance shared goals around international cultural diplomacy. This partnership grew from recommendations published in Global Positioning Strategy for the Arts, a 2009 report that urged the Obama administration to advance cultural exchange by investing in programming and coordination. The partnership catalyzed multi-year international programs and planted early seeds for U.S. RAO collaboration. 

These initiatives were supported by leadership gifts from both public and private funders, most notably the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the U.S. Department of State. 

A brief description of some of these international initiatives is offered below.

Caravanserai | Arts Midwest | 2011–2016 

Caravanserai: A place where cultures meet was a groundbreaking artistic and cultural exchange program designed to bridge cultural divides between American and Muslim Societies through international performing arts residencies. It engaged renowned producer/artistic director Zeyba Rahman and cultural producer, community organizer and interdisciplinary artist Asad Ali Jafri as curators.  

The program was supported by a leadership grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA) Building Bridges program, with additional support provided by Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Association of Performing Arts Professionals and MetLife Foundation. Caravanserai was produced by Arts Midwest on behalf of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. Caravanserai’s film and media programming was coordinated by South Arts. 

French-American Jazz Exchange | Mid Atlantic Arts | 2011–2018

The French-American Jazz Exchange (FAJE), housed within Mid Atlantic Arts, celebrated the shared passion for jazz in France and the United States.  A partnership of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, FACE (“French-American Cultural Exchange”) and Mid Atlantic Arts, the program fostered the creative and professional development of jazz artists from France and the United States.  

The program supported the creation of new work, establishment of new creative and professional partnerships, and the development of new audiences. Projects brought jazz artists in France and the United States together for collaboration and to investigate different music genres.  

FAJE was made possible through the generous support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique (SACEM), Florence Gould Foundation, and CulturesFrance. 

Center Stage | NEFA | 2012–Present

Launched in 2012, Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.

Center Stage welcomes important new voices into the national cultural dialogue by inviting performing artists from select countries to tour the United States and engage directly with artists and audiences.  Additional support for specific touring seasons has come from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the U.S. Embassies in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Rabat, Morocco.

Two older light-skinned adults with short hair sit at a table together. One of the people is wearing a light purple shirt with curly short white hair and is holding a paper cut out of a hand up to their own hand and smiling.
Mini art lesson at Silver Threads Assisted Living in Gregory, South Dakota. Photo by Prairie Feather Photography. Courtesy of Gregory Horizons and Arts Midwest.