Art in Embassies Director Ellen Susman remarks at 2015 Medal of Arts Ceremony

Art in Embassies Director Ellen Susman remarks at 2015 Medal of Arts Ceremony


SUSMAN: Hello everybody, welcome, I’m Ellen
Susman, the Director of Art in Embassies, and it’s my pleasure to welcome the Secretary
of State and all of you to the second Art in Embassies Medal of Arts awards. Today we honor 7 artists whose talent and
dedication to their work and the mission of cultivating dialogue and exchange through
the of visual arts has enriched our program for many many years. But first a warm welcome
to the ambassador from China to the United States, his Excellency Cui Tiankai, and to
the executive director of the Mexican Institute, Laura Ramírez-Rasgado. I would also like
to acknowledge our own State Department luminaries, Tony Blinken the Deputy Secretary of State,
and the Director of the Overseas Buildings Operations, Lydia Muniz who administers the
United States effort around the world to build both sustainable and secure new embassies. Heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the sponsors
of our luncheon, Jill and Jay Bernstein, Blake Bern, Gail and Al Engleberg, Jeanie and Mickey
Klein, Joe Karolwater, Sarah Morgan, Shelly Ruben, Laurie Tish, and Sarah and Gary Walkowitz.
I’m also immensely grateful to Dick and Sue Wallick, former ambassador Cathy Hall
and her husband Craig of Hall Wines for so graciously donating the delicious wine on
your tables. And finally to Art in Embassies amazing staff.
You will meet somebody from our office at every table. Without them there would be no
curated temporary or permanent exhibitions for ambassadors or embassies. No web presence,
no cultural outreach, and no publications like the beautiful booklets at every seat
which is a perfect example of the more than 70 we produce every year. Now that the acknowledgements are done, I’d
like to say a few quick words about why we’re here, about what matters, and it is this.
We are all in this room because at the core of our being we believe that art can and does
change lives. It can create meaning and bridge a divide, show us something new, show us something
old in a new way. Enliven, and help us to question ourselves and the world around us. As art classes and funding are cut from schools
and public programs, Art in Embassies is proof that the visual arts matter on a huge and
global scale. I recently received a fortune cookie that read, “Be brave enough to live
creatively” and looking at the artists today receiving the award there can be no doubt
that this is their mantra. All of you are driven to create. Your works will forever
grace the walls of our embassies around the world. Your art is often the first and only
vision of America that people in another country see. And as they walk into an annex or stand
in line for a visa, your art welcomes them in to the home of democracy. Art in Embassies works with young emerging
artists, older established artists, American artists, international artists and when we
go in to a foreign country, the work of the artists of that host country hangs on the
walls alongside yours. That is power, that is conversation and that is diplomacy. Artists
themselves are often the most well-spoken about the place art has in our lives. Bill
Viola, the master of contemporary video art, said this last summer: “The hallmarks of
all human beings is creativity and all of us in this room are creative in one way or
another. But before creativity can manifest, there must be inspiration which starts as
a tiny spark in the human heart, a recognition of something that touches us or catches us
off guard. And then finally, there’s mystery, the most important of all. Today we live in
a world of reflections and mirrors. The mirror reflects only what is shown, to learn something
new one must break the mirror to discover what is beyond.” I thank you for your contribution, for helping
us around the world, and Art in Embassies is counting on everybody in this room to continue
expanding our mission. And now, the Secretary. Sometimes you meet someone, and you know that
they’re destined for greatness. I first met Secretary Kerry in New Hampshire in 1972
when I was 21 at his friend George Butler’s true farm. We were all working to help elect
George McGovern that cold winter and John had his own dreams and a plan for life dedicated
to public service. The synchronicity of life never ceases to amaze me and it is my honor
to serve our Secretary of State, a man who has worked tirelessly his entire life to make
this country and our world a better place to live. Ladies and gentlemen, Secretary of
State John Kerry. APPLAUSE

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