Written by John M Eger
It’s a big idea.
The Aspen Institute, co-sponsor of a recent event earlier this September in San Diego in partnership with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) called the Global Forum on Innovation, sees art and culture as crucial to its “core mission to find common ground and shared values” among nations worldwide.
While art and culture has always been integral to their mission, this summer the Institute formally took a leap forward to “integrate the arts into society across the globe.”
Late last year the Institute hosted a Creative Arts World Summit in Muscat, Oman, to discuss some of the challenges facing nations around the world given the demands of a very different global economy — one based on creativity and innovation — and the importance of “public participation in cultural life and sustainable development.”
The Institute’s next international dialogue, this time on cultural diplomacy, will take place in Tokyo. Other meetings have already been held in Spain, France, China and other parts of the U.S. The Institute will partner again with ULI to host a World Summit on the Culture of Innovation in Los Angeles in 2013.
Critical to cities everywhere is an understanding of the vital role of creativity and innovation to success in the current global economy; establishing creative clusters like those discussed at the more recent event in San Diego; reinventing education; updating data infrastructures, and generally increasing awareness among politicians and policymakers, architects and real estate executives, city planners and the body politic of the importance of art and culture to fostering creativity that leads to innovation.
Already, the world is so inextricably interconnected that cultural and economic isolationism is unthinkable. But more needs to done, and perhaps the most effective thing that can be done is to aggressively promote multicultural understanding and agreement across a wider social and political spectrum. By doing so, perhaps, a world community reflective of the world economy can be created. Art and culture is integral to celebrating, honoring and understanding the differences among people and nations.
Art serves superbly as a universal language and as a means of understanding the history, culture, and values of other peoples. As human beings build virtual bridges using technology, into unknown cultural territory mankind will, hopefully, know itself as citizens of a rich and truly global society. At least that’s what Aspen seems to be saying.
In a recent Aspen Institute publication, the Institute made it clear that “the arts are uniquely powerful as they remind everyone of what we all share as humans.” Surely, there can be no more distilled expression of a culture than its works of art.
Aspen is an “educational and policy studies organization” based in Washington, D.C. Its mission, as they describe it, is “to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.” Their reach is broad. They have ongoing programs attracting the best and brightest to talk, and to do groundbreaking work, on everything from global warming and the environment, nuclear proliferation to defense policy, business and society, social justice and even sports. While they have a large presence in Aspen, Colo., they also have a large complex on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in New York City, and Washington, D.C., and they enjoy an international network of partners.
Van Deerlin Endowed Chair of Communications and Public Policy and Director of the Creative Economy Initiative, San Diego State University