Bringing the World Back to Our Community
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain
There is something special about travel. People everywhere are the same; we come in the same types. Yet, the way we live — customs, values, concerns, cultural expressions vary deeply. And, in these variances lie opportunities for exchange and connection.
In mid-October, I had the opportunity to participate in a curatorial exchange trip to Mexico, hosted by The Performing Americas Program (PAP). A long-time initiative of the National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) International Program, PAP aims to build equitable cultural exchange opportunities for artists and presenters in the regions of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States.
I was hesitant to go — the trip coincided with a board meeting and KST’s season opener of a work we co-commissioned!
But, onward I went. And, I’m better for it. Connecting with colleagues gave me the energy boost I didn’t realize I needed. Our conversations with the artists and with each other stimulated lots of questions for consideration. How can we collaborate differently? How do we make better use of our resources for more ambitious ideas? How do we better support international artists in our community, and what are possibilities for exchanges? What resources do we have to offer? The practicalities of touring, visas, and travel costs aside, my colleagues stimulated my thinking about ways we might work together to foster communities of international collaboration.
We visited two cities in Mexico – Guadalajara and Guanajuato – and witnessed live performances and exhibits while participating in much dialogue about building individual and regional relationships. Among the activities, we attended Guanajuato’s Festival Internacional Cervantino. Everyone in the community knew about the festival and excitedly took part, showing a real commitment to such programming.
In Pittsburgh, we have a generous and luxurious scene for art making. We have resources to share. In Mexico, I was inspired by our conversations with the artists we met and the colleagues in the delegation. Let’s think more boldly about how we might use our resources to make Pittsburgh an INTERNATIONAL city.
Looming through the experience was the current protectionist view assaulting public discourse – here we are dreaming of the possibilities, while visa quotas, plans for a wall, and an increasingly hostile climate to foreigners jockeys for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. How disjointing. How heartbreaking.
But, artists everywhere are resourceful and optimistic – as are presenters!
I returned to my community in Pittsburgh, rejuvenated and inspired to do this work.
What an honor it was to be part of this exchange program. And it will be a pleasure to incorporate what I’ve learned as we forge into our 10th anniversary year of original programming.