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Cultural Programs


  • Overview
  • American Cultural Specialists
  • International Arts Festivals
  • Creative Arts Exchanges
  • Film Festivals
  • Press Inquiries

    The Cultural Staff responds to requests from U.S. embassies overseas for a variety of projects. We select arts professionals to fulfill various arts projects that will benefit the long-term objectives of U.S. foreign policy. These projects may include fundraising or arts management skills, theatre production, choreography, etc. Programs involving non-profit organizations are announced in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) twice a year. All participants are of a professional level.

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    American Cultural Specialists

    The Cultural Staff recruits American arts specialists to travel and work abroad at a cultural institution, such as a theater, academy, museum, orchestra, or dance company, for a period of two-to-six weeks. Duties may include, for example, conducting a workshop or master class, directing a play, rehearsing a ballet, or advising on arts management. This program, developed in close cooperation with the U.S. embassy and overseas cultural institution, is designed to address specific needs of the host organization. In addition, specialists provide a greater understanding of the content, technique, and theoretical framework of their art in the U.S. USIA recruits cultural specialists in response to requests from U.S. embassies abroad. All expenses, plus a modest honorarium, are covered by USIA and the overseas co-sponsor or U.S. embassy.

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    International Arts Festivals

    The Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions, commonly called the Festivals Fund, was jointly established and is funded by USIA, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Fund seeks to improve and expand American artistic participation in international visual and performing arts festivals.

    Visual Arts

    The Festivals Fund supports U.S. participation at major international visual arts events. Proposals for exhibitions are welcomed from non-profit museums, galleries, and independent curators; proposals are not accepted from commercial galleries or artists submitting their own work. The Federal Advisory Committee for International Exhibitions reviews all proposals and recommends the curator and artist(s) for each international event. Once a project is selected, it is developed and managed by USIA staff, in cooperation with the curator and USIS officers abroad. For more information on the visual arts program, please contact

    Performing Arts

    American artists invited to participate in international performing arts festivals can apply for assistance from the Fund. Preference is given to festivals in which American participation will make a significant difference in the American cultural representation in that country. Artistic excellence, evidence of other sources of funding and the strength of interest in the applicant by the festival organizers are also factors in the decision. For further information or application forms, please contact the Fund for U.S. Artists.

    The United States Information Agency (USIA) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts present in joint partnership the Jazz Ambassadors program. Selected musicians tour abroad under official U.S. Government auspices following their performances on the Kennedy Centerís Millennium Stage. Participants are chosen through a national competition which requires that they not only be excellent musicians but also be conversant with broader aspects of contemporary American culture. Tours include not only concerts but workshops and master classes. The Kennedy Center organizes countrywide auditions in which professional musicians serve as panelists. USIA provides the overseas traveling expenses, hotels and meals, plus a modest honorarium for each Jazz Ambassador. Participants must be adaptable to rigorous touring through areas of the world where travel and performance conditions may be difficult.

    For 1999 and the Millennium year 2000, ten trios have been selected for tours of four to six weeks in areas such as Africa, Latin America, the Near East and South Asia. Tours will take place in the early fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000. Concert programs will highlight the works of Duke Ellington on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Performances by Jazz Ambassadors may be the first opportunity for audiences in the countries considered for these tours to experience live presentations of American music. The nature of jazz, with improvisation and the opportunity to experiment within an unrestricted musical structure, is a living lesson in both creativity and freedom of expression.

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    Creative Arts Exchanges

    Creative Arts Exchanges link American artists, museum professionals and cultural institutions with counterparts abroad by partially funding non-profit institutional projects conducting two-way international cultural exchanges. The American organization works with USIA to shape and focus the program, and then, with USIS offices abroad, to select the foreign participants and implement the project. All awards require private sector cost-sharing to ensure follow-on and continuity. The program operates through semi-annual Requests for Proposals (RFPs) appearing in the Federal Register inviting proposals from U.S. non-profit cultural organizations.

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    Film Festivals

    The Film Festivals program is USIA's liaison with the U.S. filmmaking community and film institutions. We provide 35mm feature films to U.S. embassies for prestigious Ambassadorial screenings and embassy-sponsored film festivals. The features are Hollywood commercial releases or films by independent U.S. filmmakers. Film Festivals also provides features for film events co-sponsored by U.S. embassies and local contacts, and films for international film festivals that our embassies support. Embassies use the screenings to promote foreign policy objectives such as protection of intellectual and cultural property rights. The screenings also help American film companies open new theatrical markets abroad and assist independent filmmakers to gain marketing exposure overseas. Film Festivals assists the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with its annual Foreign Student Film Awards. We also work with the Council on International Non-Theatrical Events (CINE) and others to provide award-winning private sector productions for competitive documentary festivals.

    (Tel) (202) 619-5792; (email)

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    Press Inquiries

    USIA's cultural program welcomes and seeks contact with the press in order to publicize its programs to the public. Please contact USIA's Public Liaison Office on (202) 401-1190 or email for press inquiries.

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    Office of Citizen Exchanges (E/P)
    Cultural Programs
    United States Information Agency
    301 Fourth Street, SW, Room 568
    Washington, DC 20547 USA
    (tel) 202.619.4779
    (fax) 202.619.6315