Moscow Ministry of Culture 09

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale and Russian Ministry of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy / Moscow Ministry of Culture 09

I am feeling utterly privileged and thrilled to share with you the inspiring experience of serving as a delegate on behalf of America’s museums as a board member of the American Association of Museums on a United States State Department cultural exchange mission to advance the vision of US and Russian Presidents Obama and Medvedev to create cultural exchange between the people of Russia and the United States. The cultural delegation includes members from the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, Library of Congress, The National Endowment for the Humanities, Smithsonian Museums, regional arts foundations, Iowa University International Writers program and American Association of Museums. (read more).

Upon arrival we had our first briefing meeting with Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, and Congressman Delahunt, D-Quincy, MA, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, to outline the goals of the mission. A US Embassy security briefing followed.

Our first day of meetings, held at the Russian Ministry of Culture in Moscow, took place in simultaneous translation to introduce the education, culture and sports delegation and to present the broad goals of cultural exchange programs. 36 delegates around the table made introductions while US Embassy, Foreign Service and State Department officials observed.

The Cultural Delegation sub-group met with their counterparts during today’s meetings at the Russian Ministry of Culture. Working through a translator, more detailed introductions, suggestions and discussion ensued to explore areas of exchange in the immediate and longer term. Russia’s museums, performing arts, film, media, music, dance, libraries are centrally managed by Ministry of Culture. The US has a mostly decentralized, private system of cultural infrastructure. To create successful exchange we must find a way to bridge the centralized and decentralized communications and funding structures.

A plenary session at the Russian US Embassy in Moscow will conclude the three day delegation meeting. US Undersecretary of State for Cultural Diplomacy, Judith McHale and Russian Ministry of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy plan to issue a bi-lateral agreement of principles of exchange and a preliminary list of ideas at the closing reception and press conference. A follow-up meeting will take place in the United States in March 2010, intended to firm up ideas and introduce potential US partners to the Russian Ministry officials and institutions.

While here we have visited the opulent and beautiful collections at the Kremlin Museums, Cathedral Square, historic Red Square in the snowy evening and experienced a trio of heart-stirring dance performances at the Stanislovsky Theatre.

To view photos of the trip, please visit my album on Facebook.

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