PROJECTS & INITIATIVES: International Programs


USArtists International 
Arts Midwest World Fest
National Dance Project-International
Convenings of International Experts and Perspectives
South ArtsIntegrated Program Model

(Mid-America Arts Alliance)
ExhibitsUSA is a national traveling exhibition program of the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The primary focus is the organization, management, and interpretation of thoughtful and affordable museum-quality exhibitions of artistic or cultural significance. Over the past 18 years more than 15 million visitors in more than 1,000 communities in all 50 states and abroad have viewed an ExhibitsUSA exhibition. Among the 24 exhibitions currently touring through ExhibitsUSA is Cardinal Points/Puntos Cardinales, a survey of contemporary Latino and Latin American Art. The 55 mixed media works featured in the exhibition are by some of the most prominent artists of Latin America.

A principal goal of this exhibition is to make visitors aware of the broad range of artistic approaches pursued by these artists.  Despite the stereotypes, there is no such thing as a homogenous “Latin American style.” The diversity of expressions founds in the exhibition reflects the vastness of a region that encompasses twenty countries, people of numerous ethnicities and cultures, and wide-ranging social and economic conditions.

Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to explore its rich diversity through the extensive educational materials that supplement the exhibition. These include an exhibition catalog, family gallery guide, didactic panels, and narrative labels--all of which are bilingual. Additionally, the exhibition travels with a bilingual educational programming guide that includes docent training information, artist biographies, lesson plans for school groups, an extensive bibliography, museum program suggestions, ten related books for adults and six related books for children, and an interactive CD-ROM.

Cardinal Points/Puntos Cardinales is traveling to seven U.S. museums during its two-year tour, including communities in Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and the boot heel of Missouri, where large demographic shifts have occurred because of an influx of Latin American immigrants to rural, agricultural communities.  

USArtists International 
(Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation)
USArtists International (USAI) is the only national initiative solely dedicated to the promotion of American performing arts abroad. Through USAI, grants are available to American dance, music and theater ensembles and solo performers that have been invited to participate in international festivals anywhere in the world outside of the United States. USArtists International (USAI) is committed to ensuring that the impressive range of expression of the performing arts in the United States is represented abroad, and that the creative and professional development of American artists is enhanced through participation at significant international festivals. Performances at important festivals provide American artists with opportunities for the exchange of ideas and practices with their colleagues in other countries, as well as exposure to new and larger audiences. The participation of exemplary artists from the United States in international festivals helps develop audiences for, and greater appreciation of, the excellence, diversity and vitality of the American performing arts.

Recent grants have be awarded to acclaimed New York-based multidisciplinary artist Meredith Monk for performances at the Edinburgh International Festival in the United Kingdom; to brass-funk musical ensemble Debo Band of Boston for performances at Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar, Tanzania; Límon Dance Company of New York for performances at the Steps International Dance Festival in Zurich, Switzerland; and theatre artist Lynn Manning of Los Angeles for performances at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Adelaide, Australia.

Arts Midwest World Fest

Arts Midwest World Fest presents international musical ensembles in intensive week-long residencies in smaller Midwest communities. Its purpose is to foster an understanding of and appreciation for global uniqueness and differences.

Arts Midwest World Fest’s objectives are to:

  • present high-caliber, accessible international artists to small- or mid-sized Midwest communities;
  • provide a multifaceted experience to community residents, particularly young people;
  • integrate the artists and their music into a broader social, cultural, political, and historical framework;
  • encourage young people to explore issues and understand concerns of diverse cultures; and
  • create a lasting musical and cultural impact on participants.

This year, musical groups from Inner Mongolia, China; Israel; Veracruz, Mexico; and Québec, Canada are each spending a week in Midwest towns like Spearfish, South Dakota, and Traverse City, Michigan. During each week-long residency, the musicians lead school concerts, musical and cultural workshops, and a public concert. To extend the cultural experience to the classroom, Arts Midwest provides participating communities with a curriculum that helps students and teachers better understand and appreciate the customs and traditions of the visiting ensembles.

As an example, musical ensemble An Da Union is providing a fascinating glimpse into the Inner Mongolia region of China. The group’s music is created by twelve young and dynamic musicians who perform on traditional Chinese instruments and include a traditional type of Mongolian singing commonly referred to as “throat singing.”

This landmark tour, supported in part by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, is the group’s first in the U.S. and brings this distinctive culture to students and audiences across the Midwest. Partners respond to the events with comments such as, “At the end of the evening concert, there were tears in the eyes of Nevada, Iowa teachers who had worked with the group the day before. When An Da Union sang ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ and handed out scarf-gifts, it was clear that a life-long memory had been created from the interaction of music and teaching about Mongolia.” 

National Dance Project-International
(New England Foundation for the Arts)

The National Dance Project (NDP) has supported the production and distribution of dance in the U.S. since 1996.  The program aggregates public and private resources, is guided by a group of preeminent dance field leaders, and, through grants and services, is the only support system for the creation and touring of dance in the U.S.  Each year, up to 25 different dance projects are featured in engagements in over 250 communities across the country.  Workshops, lecture-demonstrations, informal conversations between dance artists and community members, and other contextualizing activities, accompany formally presented performances. 

From the program’s inception, NDP has recognized that the inclusion of artists and projects originating abroad adds to the rich global dialogue.  International activity and partnerships within NDP enrich opportunities for both U.S. communities to see international artists, and for American dance artists to develop lasting relationships internationally.  In recent years, an average of 22 percent of projects have featured the artistic creations of foreign choreographers and their collaborators.  To deepen and extend impact, NDP has developed projects with agencies associated with the governments of Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Mexico and France.

Examples of NDP international projects include: 

1) A creative exchange and U.S. tour featured Urban Bush Women (New York) and Compagnie JANT-BI (Senegal) culminated in a collaboratively created work about the importance of place and community.

2) The Ilkhom Theatre of Uzbekistan collaborated with celebrated African-American choreographer David Rousseve (California) on a dance theater work which toured the U.S.  Iconographic paintings by Usto Mumin inspired the new work.

3) A U.S. tour of the work of French-Algerian choreographer Rachid Ouramdane, based at the Centre National Dramatique de Gennevilliers, in a suburb of Paris with a large Muslim population was supported by NDP. 

4) NDP partners with The Africa Contemporary Arts Consortium (TACAC) that has brought outstanding African artists to the U.S., including Faustin Linyekula, Nora Chipaumire, Compagnie TchéTché, and Compagnie Heddy Maalem.  The partnership is currently focused on the development of productions and tours from countries of North Africa encountered at a May 2008 platform in Tunisia hosted by Ness El Fen.  

5) The Triangle Project brought together choreographers and their collaborators from Indonesia, Japan, and New England who, as a team of creative researchers, spent time in each other’s countries to explore creative concepts, systems of support, and approaches to involving and engaging communities. 

Western States Arts Federation Convenings of International Experts and Perspectives

Over the past 12 years, WESTAF has organized and managed 11 high-level forums, many including international presenters and participants. These forums have identified established and emerging voices in the area of cultural policy and engaged them in a dialogue that will inform cultural policy development in the region. The symposium-style dialogue is documented in published proceedings that are disseminated to cultural leaders across the country and abroad. These proceedings are also available in electronic format online.

Forum topics have included analysis of the concept of culture in the United States and abroad, considering the impact of global migration on existing arts and cultural communities, examining cultural policy-making infrastructures in the United States and abroad, and sharing information, ideas, activities, and successful models that strengthen arts and culture globally. Because of the network and reach of many of our international participants, each convening stirs a significant amount of international and domestic interest in the work of U.S. arts and cultural organizations and also expands and invigorates interest in international cultural exchange. Future forums will enjoy expanded reach due to the planned application of digital technologies such as Web video streaming, podcasts and interactive remote technology.

Examples of international presenters and participants in past WESTAF forums include:

  • Vjeran Katunaric, professor of sociology at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, where his primary areas of research and teaching are ethnic relations, multiculturalism, and culture and development.
  • Ilona Kish, secretary general of the European Forum for Arts and Heritage, an organization of cultural networks and associations that represents the interests of the cultural sector at European Union level.
  • Doudou Diène, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights.
  • Gabriella Gomez-Mont, an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and thinker from Mexico City. She has worked in Mexico, the United States, and Italy; has exhibited her work in Japan, Mexico, and Europe; and has acted as contributor and editor for a number of national and international arts magazines.
  • Aziz Ridouan, a 19-year-old activist from Paris who co-founded the French Association des Audionautes, a group that provides legal services to individuals charged by major corporations for illegal downloading of music.
  • Ivan Duran, the Belize-based director of Stonetree Records, a record label that works with artists in the Afro-Cuban, African-Belize, and Caribbean music genre. His work involves producing, researching, promoting, and managing the tours of artists engaged in the Garifuna traditions (African-Belize).

South ArtsIntegrated Program Model

SAF’s successful programs in multiple arts disciplines have regularly provided a conduit for international exchange. The integration of cultural exchange activities and relationships into current program models have allowed SAF to leverage additional impact by investing cultural exchange resources (artists, funding, attention) into program areas that already have solid infrastructure and constituent relationships. Using this model, presenters, artists, audiences and communities both in the South and internationally have been connected to rich arts experiences from cultures other than their own. These programs include:

  • JazzSouth Radio (1991-2003) was distributed free of charge on compact disc to19 carriers in Australia (four affiliates), Brazil, Columbia (ten affiliates), Poland, Peru, Taiwan and South Africa. Collectively, these international affiliates accounted for more than 47,000,000 annual impressions.
  • Professional Development for Presenters and Touring Artists/Managers - In 2003, Ann Rothery (former) SAF National Arts Leadership Institute Manager, and Jorge Morales, a native of Mexico and a graduate of SAF’s American Traditions (traditional arts professional development program), provided instruction and information through delivery of a series of professional development workshops in five Mexican cities; Durango, Monterrey, Culiacan , Hermosillo and Tijuana. Artists and arts administrators from the states of Durango, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Baja California attended these seminars.
  • Southern Visions Traveling Exhibits Program - The University of Haifa (Haifa, Israel) hosted, Living Traditions:  Folk Artists of the American South, September 2003-February 2004. The NEA-funded traveling exhibit from SAF’s ongoing program featured the work of nine master traditional artists and their apprentices. Georgine Clark, Visual Arts Program Manager for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, presented a series of lectures in Israel in association with the exhibit.
  • SouthArts Fund Touring Program – SAF sponsored, in partnership with NEA’s Cultural Connections Initiative, the first United States tour of Grupo Siquisirí. An influential force in the traditional Son Jarocho music genre (which utilizes string instruments similar to the Bluegrass music tradition), Grupo Siquisirí, from the Mexican state of Veracruz, presented concerts in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee during spring 2007. In addition to a series of evening concerts, Grupo Siquisirí presented their music and heritage to elementary and middle school students, music majors at the University of South Carolina and faith-based audiences. Ethnomusicologist Rafael Figueroa Hernández provided cultural context for all concerts and presentations.


Arts Midwest 
mid-america arts alliance
Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
New England Foundation for the Arts
Southern Arts Federation
Western States Arts Federation
National Endowment for the Arts