June 9-14, 2018
Project: Performing Arts Management in Disadvantaged Regions
No. of Visitors: 7
From June 9 to June 14, the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana hosted seven international visitors from Russia for a program called “Performing Arts Management in Disadvantaged Regions,” sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The World Affairs Council partnered with Meridian International Center to arrange a phenomenal learning experience for the Russians and the representatives of Kentucky arts organizations that met with them. The delegates represented a variety of performing arts institutions, such as the V-ROX Showcase Festival in Vladivostok, the Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre, ArtLine LLC, the Chelyabinsk State Philharmonic, the Leonard Gatov Krasnodar Artistic Union, the Voronezh State Young Spectator’s Theatre, and the B.N. Yeltsin Presidential Center. By participating in this program, they gained insight into the state of performing arts management in Kentucky so as to give them ideas for best practices that they may implement in their own performing arts organizations. Given that the visitors hailed from Russian communities that do not have as much economic or political prominence as Moscow or St. Petersburg, they were excited to learn about performing arts organizations in Louisville and Berea, Kentucky, communities outside of performing arts hubs such as New York City.
As a summer intern for the World Affairs Council, I was enthusiastic to accompany this group of international visitors on my first International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). In particular, I took great interest in getting to know the group of Russians since I have been studying the Russian language for a year and will be continuing my studies of the language in the coming academic year. Thus, this program offered me an ideal opportunity to enhance my Russian abilities, forge bonds with visitors who held diverse perspectives on the arts, and hone my organizational skills by planning and implementing the groups’ programming.
Throughout the program, I enjoyed each programming event heartily, for all of the Russians’ meetings exposed me to a new facet of the rich variety of the performing arts companies of Kentucky. As a state whose performing arts organizations are generally not as well-known as those of states that contain the United States’ largest and wealthiest cities, visiting Kentucky helped the Russians gain a better appreciation for a distinct approach to the performing arts. Therefore, this program succeeded brilliantly in achieving the U.S. State Department’s goal of exposing international visitors to diverse viewpoints and practices through the IVLP initiatives.
My favorite aspect of the program was the Russians’ visit to Berea, Kentucky. The principal reason why I enjoyed this excursion so much is that Berea is a small, artisan community that stands as a stark contrast to Louisville’s deeply urban environment. Along with the international visitors, I was able to meet woodcarvers at work on intricate pieces, who took great interest in getting to know the Russians. I even had the unique opportunity to participate in the folk dances with the Russians and folk dancers from Berea before dancing to a Russian folk dance. Throughout the program, I listened attentively to the Russian being spoken by the members of the international visitor delegation, and although I was only with the Russians for a few days, I found that my Russian had slightly improved by the end of the program. However, I didn’t just listen to Russian; I also made an effort to speak a little Russian with the visitors, especially those who spoke limited English. The Russians, for their part, also spoke to me in English from time to time, asking me questions about U.S. culture and noticing the difference between Americans’ and Russians’ tea preferences. Thus, my experience with the Russians not only allowed me to acquaint myself better with Russian performing arts management strategies and with the Russian language, but also gave the Russians an excellent chance to practice their English. Most of all, this one-of-a-kind program helped me to grow as a more globally-minded and more well-rounded person, with a better understanding of and appreciation for Russian culture and for diverse perspectives in general. I am deeply thankful to the World Affairs Council and to the U.S. State Department for coordinating this exceptional experience, for the cross-cultural dialogue of programs like this one is at the heart of the World Affairs Council’s mission.