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New Exchange Program for Russian Cultural Leaders Launched With Visit to Western North Carolina
November 5, 2003

For Immediate Release
PR: 03-036

Open World Cultural Leaders Program Links U.S. and Russian Cultural Institutions

Washington, DC – Eight Russian cultural leaders, ranging from the deputy director of a large folk ensemble to a strategic planner for a regional ministry of culture, will spend Nov. 8–22 in Asheville, Brevard, and other Western North Carolina communities on the first exchange under the new Open World Cultural Leaders Program. The program is administered by the Open World Leadership Center, an independent legislative branch agency located at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The participants visiting North Carolina come from Karelia, a republic in northwest Russia with a unique mix of peoples and cultural influences. While in the United States, they will examine the role of culture in American communities and the various facets of cultural institution management.

The Center’s Open World Program has brought more than 7,000 Russian political and civic leaders to all 50 U.S. states to build mutual understanding between the United States and the Russian Federation. Congress directed Open World to initiate the new Cultural Leaders Program in legislation passed earlier this year. The inaugural Open World cultural exchange is being hosted by the National Peace Foundation (NPF) in North Carolina and Michigan. NPF has organized numerous Open World visits and has strong local networks in both states.

Among the cultural leaders visiting Western North Carolina are officials of the Karelia Republic Ministry of Culture, the chief conservator of an open-air island-museum showcasing traditional Russian wooden architecture, a deputy director of the Karelia Republic National Theater, the chief fundraiser for the Karelian State Philharmonic Society, and a music professor at Petrozavodsk State Conservatory, one of Russia’s top music conservatories.

“Russia’s cultural leaders and traditions have played a disproportionate role in shaping and directing Russia’s history and politics,” stated Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, a co-founder of the Open World Program and chairman of the Center’s Board of Trustees. “Linking our two countries more closely through our cultural institutions reinforces the deep artistic ties between our two countries.”

In Asheville, the Russian cultural leaders will attend special seminars on strategic planning, heritage tourism, and related topics at the Folk Art Center, the Kellogg Center for Continuing Education, and The Institute at Biltmore (Nov. 9–10). They are also scheduled to meet with representatives of the Asheville Arts Alliance and the Asheville Museum (Nov. 18).

In Brevard, the Russians will attend a welcoming reception at the Brevard Music Center (Nov. 9), learn about the work of the Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association, and hold discussions with local artists, the Transylvania County Arts Council, and administrators of the Brevard Music Center. On Nov. 13, the Russians will brief faculty and students of Brevard College’s Fine Arts division on Karelia’s arts organizations and cultural history. The editor-publisher of the Transylvania Times and the director of tourism planning for the Brevard-Transylvania County Chamber of Commerce will discuss marketing and reporting on cultural organizations with the Russians later that day.

In Flat Rock, the Russians will visit the Carl Sandberg Home and attend workshops and a rehearsal at the Flat Rock Playhouse (Nov. 14). They travel to Cherokee on Nov. 17 to learn how Cherokee history is dramatized through the play “Unto These Hills,” and they visit Waynesville the same day to study how Folkmoot USA, the official international festival of the state of North Carolina, is organized and marketed. The group will visit cultural sites in Winston-Salem on Nov. 12.

The local coordinator for the delegation’s program is J. Thomas Bertrand of Brevard, former president of Brevard College and former secretary of Emory University.

Before arriving in North Carolina, the Russians will take part in a Washington, DC orientation session with the Michigan delegation that will include meetings with National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia and other arts leaders. Their U.S. program concludes with a visit to New York City, where they and the Michigan delegates will have working meetings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Juilliard School of Music, and downtown cultural institutions and organizations, including the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, which is involved in rebuilding the downtown’s art and cultural communities.

“Having the cultural exchanges last three weeks, rather than the 10 days that is typical of our civic exchanges, is designed to provide ample time for both U.S. and Russian partners to learn about how arts organizations are developed in each other’s country; how these organizations serve their communities; and also how cultural activity in the United States is funded – a topic of special relevance to Russian cultural institutions adjusting to reduced government support and a market economy,” stated Open World Executive Director Geraldine M. Otremba.

Open World enlisted the Likhachev Foundation and CEC International Partners to help identify potential candidates for this program, and has been working closely with the Russian Ministry of Culture, the National Endowment for the Arts, NPF, and the U.S. host institutions on the design of the first three-week residencies. Both traditional high culture and popular culture in the United States will be explored, and Russia’s immensely important folklore traditions will also be a focus of the exchange.

For more background on Open World, please contact Katya Sedova at 202-466-6210 or visit