smART Power: The Government's Million Dollar Plan to Send Artists Around the World

The Obama Administration presents a $1 million program to send visual artists to create public installations in 15 countries around the world.

Diplomacy in the modern age has a new look, reports The New York Times, as the Obama Administration presents a $1 million program to send visual artists to create public installations in 15 countries around the world:

The new program, known as smART Power, will be administered by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, which was selected from a dozen institutions to choose the artists. They will be sent to places that include Pakistan, Egypt, Venezuela, China, Nigeria and a Somali refugee camp in Kenya.

The museum will put out an open call for proposals early next year; the 15 artists will be selected by a panel of experts put together by the museum. Holly Block, the museum’s director, said she had no preconceived notion of what projects the artists should undertake. But as an example of the kind of proposals she was anticipating, she mentioned a work by Pedro Reyes, a Mexican artist, in which he melted down guns turned in as part of an anti-violence campaign and turned the metal into gardening tools.


The Times also notes that the budget for cultural diplomacy programs has increased from $1.6 million in 2001 to $11.75 in 2010. One generally doesn't imagine the State Department as having creative or aesthetic expertise, so it's interesting to see that institution put some faith in artists to improve U.S. relations around the world.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Jules Antonio

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