While at Canadian Embassy in Hong-Kong, such was my surprise to discover the centerpiece of the meeting room is a work of Ione Thorkelsson, glass sculptor originally from Manitoba. My interlocutor, a Chinese, began the conversation by commenting on Ione’s work. It did not need more to make our business relationship go forward.
I know that culture plays a vital role in the appreciation of our identity and acts as a fundamental characteristic of our nation in the international community. At that very precious moment, art was part of Canadian diplomacy.
The role of arts and culture in Canadian public diplomacy
The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy defines Cultural Diplomacy as a “course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests”.
In 1995, Canada in theWorld recognized Canadian values and culture as the ‘third pillar’ of foreign policy, equal to the first two pillars of economic growth and international peace and security. A most abrupt change was made in 2005 in the foreign policy review A Role of Pride and Influence in the World. Culture as a pillar of foreign policy was completely absent, and cultural relations were few throughout the document.
Yet, in foreign affairs, arts and culture continue to play a leading role in diplomatic strategies in most countries. We then get the opportunity to tell the world who we are and offer a positive image of our country.
“Cultural diplomacy is the use of creative expression and exchanges of ideas, information, and people to increase mutual understanding” stated Cynthia P. Schneider in Cultural Diplomacy: Hard to Define, but You’d Know It If You Saw It
Our artists stand abroad
Borderless artists and high profile organizations shine and are worldly acclaimed in many capital and great cities. In 2015 it is hard to find regions on our cultural planet where you can not soak in works by our designers or our artists. Our country is undeniably a more fertile breeding ground for the arts.
“Culture is about our image, our values and our identity” says Program Manager and Curator for Visual Art Collection at Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), Dan Sharp. “DFATD acquires original art works from living, emerging-to-mid-career artists from all regions of Canada to reflect our rich and diverse cultural and linguistic heritage.”
In 2015, there are approximately 4000 artists in the collection of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and 6200 works of art. On display abroad is 80% of the collection, in a total of 111 cities, including Embassies, Consulates and High Commission offices and Official Residences. Works of art are displayed in China, India, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, England, USA, Japan, Mexico or Brazil, as well as many others. These works are for display only in public or representational areas of chanceries or designated official residences to which they are assigned.
The country ‘s remarkable collection of artwork expresses the high level of Canada’s creativity both in the arts and in general. The artists whose works are displayed contribute to the high-level of exchanges conversation, on top of the great ideas shared between two countries.