Page 54 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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F OR E I GN S E R V I C E J OU R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
nyone who has worked in a U.S.
embassy will tell you that the build-
ing is much more than a place of
work. Through its layeredsenseof purpose,
it is a place that communicates American
culture, values and ideals. Thus, the art dis-
played at an embassy is not simply deco-
rative, but ladenwithpotential for cross-cul-
tural connections and dialogue.
Whenmy husband, Earle I.Mack, and
I moved to Helsinki in 2004 for his
appointment as the U.S. ambassador to
Finland, we brought with us a contempo-
raryart collectionthat Ihadcuratedathome
in New York City. The focal point of our
collection was a 15-foot-long Alex Katz
painting of flowers floating against a green
background. Needless to say, it dominat-
ed the living room. The bold, colorful
images in our collectionmade an impres-
sion on everyone who saw them.
When I chose the collection, we
never knew how important it would be
to our subsequent diplomatic work. Yet
during those initial months when our sur-
roundings constituted unfamiliar terrain,
we cast a wide net into the community
in an effort tomeet as many people as we
could. Our art collection was a conver-
sation starter. It provoked strong reac-
tions and ultimately led to our inclusion
in all of Helsinki’s art and cultural
It also sparked associations with the
FinnishAmerican Society and the Finnish
AmericanChamber of Commerce, where
I was invited to give lectures on contem-
porary art. Our acceptance into the arts
community helped us greatly to broaden
our reachandconnections throughout the
Joining FAPE
Having seen firsthand thedifference art
canmake incultural diplomacy, I joinedthe
board of the Foundation for Art and
Preservation inEmbassies, anorganization
that promotes the role that art can play in
a diplomatic context. Like many other
spouses of ambassadors, I found a family
inFAPEandwhat it offeredduringour stay
My friendandfellowFAPEBoardmem-
ber,VeraBlinken, hada similar experience.
When her husband, Donald M. Blinken,
became the U.S. ambassador to Hungary
in 1994, it was just three years after the last
Soviet soldiershadleftBudapest and45years
after the start of the Soviet occupation. As
Hungary emerged from behind the Iron
Curtain, the Blinkens realized that cultur-
al diplomacy was an important tool.
WhenBudapest’sMuseumof FineArts
planned a Titian exhibit, they asked the
Blinkens for assistance in securing the loan
of a painting from the National Gallery of
Art inWashington,D.C. Veramade ithap-
pen. Once thepainting took its place in the
exhibition, theAmericanembassyorganized
a welcoming party for the “American
Titian,” bringing together Americans and
Hungarians ina convivial, amicable setting.
Even a single painting coming from the
United States not onlymade a stellar con-
tribution to the exhibition but, more
importantly, created good will.
Our experiences, of course, are part of
a larger legacy. Throughout ourhistory, the
arts have served as ameaningful and effec-
tive way for the United States to assert her
diplomaticdexterity. Nowherewas thisbet-
ter seen than during the Cold War, when
American painters, poets, musicians and
authors all helped connect the hearts and
mindsof citizens aroundtheworld, by shar-
ing a slice of everyday American life.
I seeFAPE’sworkas away to further the
role that art canplay inour country’sdiplo-
macy. FromElynZimmerman’s sculpture
at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, cre-
ated from indigenous African granite, to
Martin Puryear’s vision for Embassy
Beijing, a sweeping stainless steel arch that
will standmore than30 feet tall andwill be
visible to the public from outside the
embassy, FAPE is bringingAmericanart to
our embassies throughout the world as a
means of communicationanddiplomacy.
Such works give people from different
nations a glimpse into the collective con-
sciousness of our country, while providing
an outlet other than politics to connect us
all. Art transcends decoration by making
a statement about ourselves andour inter-
ests. It sparks conversations, becomes a
point of commonality and, inmany ways,
defines us.
To learnmoreabout theFoundationfor
Art and Preservation in Embassies, please
Carol Mack is married to the former U.S. ambas-
sador to Finland, Earle I. Mack. Prior to relocat-
ing to Helsinki she lived in New York City for 24
years, where she raisedher two children. An active
participant inAmerican cultural life, Mrs. Mack cur-
rently serves on the board of the Foundation of
Art and Preservation of Embassies inWashington,
D.C., the American Scandinavian Foundation, the
NewYork City Ballet and the American Friends of
the Paris Opera and Ballet, among others.
The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies and artists Martin Puryear and Brice Marden pre-
sented new works of art for U.S. embassies to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during FAPE’s
25th Anniversary Dinner on May 19, in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Left to right: Earl A. Powell III, Director of the Gallery; Jo Carole Lauder, FAPE Chairman; Martin Puryear,
artist; Secretary Clinton; and Brice Marden, artist.
Presenting American Culture to the World