Celebrating 50 Years of Worldwide Artistic Exchange

The U.S. Department of State is perhaps most famous for international relations efforts on a global scale—from navigating peace treaties, to promoting fair and free elections, the Department of State’s agenda is broad in scope and reach. Nestled within the Department of State is the Office of Art in Embassies (AIE), a cultural powerhouse that promotes the arts on a global level through artist exchanges and events. AIE is also responsible for purchasing, borrowing, and arranging the pieces of art located in embassies and ambassadors’ residences throughout the world.

“It may not be something specifically that the American citizen can experience,” says Beth Dozoretz, Director of Art in Embassies. Yet “pretty much anyone from the State Department who goes to our embassies comes back to us and says the exhibitions on loan are a very, very important tool for outreach.”

In 2012, AIE celebrated its 50th anniversary with a week-long festival in Washington DC highlighting the “soft power of the arts.” One powerful showcase, “Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes,” featured 161 photographs taken by active-duty military and Foreign Service personnel displayed on screens outside the Verizon Center.

The celebration also placed a strong emphasis on the youth, and cultivating the next generation of artists to promote cross-cultural collaboration through programs like the American Artist Lecture Series with Tate Modern. This partnership with the Embassy of London highlighted six American artists, such as Brice Marden, whose work has been displayed in the Guggenheim Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as various international venues. Another project partnered the Embassy of Morocco and the Rhode Island School of Design in a program that enables students to explore the use of art as a means of cultural diplomacy.

In total, AIE displays art in over 200 buildings in 189 countries. In the past decade, it has installed 58 permanent collections, and is responsible for about 60 temporary exhibits per year.

Source: U.S. Department of State Art in Embassies