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A new exhibition of art commissioned by the British Council to interpret an academic and policy report by a professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will be unveiled April 29 at Mason Square (formerly the Arlington Campus).
The event is open to the public and features a keynote address from the ambassador from Tanzania and a panel discussion with representatives from international development, public diplomacy, and art agencies.
The mixed-media artwork by 12 artists from six countries illustrates complex concepts within Schar School Professor J.P. Singh’s report, “The Cultural Relations of Negotiating Development: Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) at the British Council.”
The well-received study was commissioned by the British Council, the U.K.’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, and released in 2020. (Read it here.) DICE is a global pilot program that activated new forms of cultural agency and collaboration for 22,000 creative social entrepreneurs, artists, intermediaries, young journalists, and policymakers.
“The artists all interpreted the report so creatively,” said Singh, who teaches international commerce at the Schar School. “They picked up on nuances in the report but also were able to show in powerful ways how art and creativity can help us reimagine international development.”
The exhibition of 34 original works, which will be displayed at Mason’s Van Metre Hall gallery in Arlington, was co-curated by Singh and Mason political science PhD student Caroline Wesson, who studies innovation policy and has assisted in other art presentations.
“I have been thrilled to work on this exhibition because it is one of few occasions in which scholarship and art are directly in dialogue with one another,” Wesson said. “Scholarship and research are creative endeavors, but the way in which academics interpret and approach their work, and the world they seek to understand, is different than that of the artist.
“Seeing the artists’ interpretations of Dr. Singh’s report has helped me to consider different lenses and perspectives for my own research and will lead me towards wider considerations for how my work may impact others.”
The art will be unveiled April 29 at 4 p.m.; at 5 p.m., Elsie S. Kanza, ambassador of Tanzania to the U.S. and Mexico, will deliver the keynote speech, followed by a panel discussion. Steve Clemons, editor at large at the Hill, will moderate the conversation addressing the role of art in international development.
Panelists include Alicia Adams, vice president of International Programming and Dance at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts; Michael Orlove, director of State, Regional, and Local Partnerships and International Activities at the National Endowment for the Arts; Vivian Walker, executive director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; and Michael Woolcock, lead economist for the World Bank’s Development Research Group and a professor at Harvard University.
“We hope that both the exhibition and public launch event will help raise awareness of the often-overlooked role of the artist in international development,” said British Council’s Adam Pillsbury. “The works of art they produced after reading the paper and meeting with Professor Singh helped us see his paper in new ways, translate its complexity, and illustrate its central topics and tangential themes.”
The art will be on view at Mason’s Van Metre Hall until May 13.