Award winners at CultureSummit 2017

The organisers of CultureSummit 2017, the “global cultural leadership forum” which began yesterday in Abu Dhabi, have announced winners to be honoured at the five-day event.

They come in two categories – artists-in-residence and ‘Cultural Diplomat’ Awards – and neither group contains any name that could shock or surprise.

Madeleine Albright

The Cultural Diplomat winners were selected to reflect “their contributions to the practice of cultural diplomacy … Each winner has both broadened and elevated the practice of using culture to promote international understanding, bridge differences and promote positive change worldwide”. These probably epitomise the goals and the scope of the CultureSummit. Three are (or were) actual diplomats:

  • Madeleine Albright (right), former US Secretary of State, “in recognition for her active support of the importance of cultural diplomacy throughout her career as a diplomat”
  • HE Dr Anwar Bin Mohammed Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • HE Dr Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; and the Cultural Advisor at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Three others are organisations in the arts field:

  • Sesame Workshop, producers of Sesame Street worldwide
  • El Sistema, the publicly funded music education program in Venezuela – it delivers “free classical music education that promotes human opportunity and development for impoverished children”. It involves more than 400 music centres and has trained 700,000+ young musicians.
  • West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a youth orchestra founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said, and based in Seville. Its musicians come primarily from countries in the Middle East
Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra at the 2016 BBC Proms

The 2017 Artists-in-Residence were chosen by the CultureSummit organisers on the basis of “lifelong achievement in the arts and established creative leadership in their fields … Each is an acknowledged master in their art form as well as being a thought-leader, advancing public understanding of the arts and the use of the arts as a tool to promote understanding and positive social change”.

It’s not entirely clear what ‘artist-in-residence’ entails, but presumably we can expect some financial input and artistic outcome before the next CultureSummit. The three are:

  • Tan Dun: Chinese contemporary composer and conductor, probably best known for his scores for the movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero but widely respected in the classical music world
  • Idris Khan: British artist known for his large-scale works (sculpture, painting, and photography) and responsible for the monumental work that was unveiled in November 2016 as the centrepiece of Wahat Al Karama, the Martyrs’ Memorial Park in Abu Dhabi
  • Liz Lerman: the US choreographer, performer, writer, educator and speaker founded Dance Exchange in 1976 and led it until 2011. Now a Professor at Arizona State University, she teaches Critical Response Process, creative research, the intersection of art and science, and the building of narrative within dance.
Idris Khan’s martyrs memorial for Wahat al Karama


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