#Artpropelstheworld: The Lincoln Center Global Exchange
October 12, 2015
On September 18, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts held its inaugural Global Exchange, an annual one-day meeting designed "to bring together an array of leaders with the influence and resources to change the way art and culture engage with the world." A lofty goal, but it's off to a great start.
The day was divided into three broad topics: Art and Science, Art and Education, and Art and Cities, which were meant to address such questions as: How does art affect the brain and spark creativity? How can art and artists help us navigate the challenges of brain disorders? How do we nurture students and citizens through art? How can we tap the underused power of arts learning to address social problems that resist other interventions? How does art infuse the urban environment with vibrancy, improving quality of life and happiness? And, how does art facilitate communication and collaboration in a globalized world?
Jane Chu (Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts), choreographer Shen Wei, sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard, and professors Dr. Paul Greengard and Dr. Eric R. Kandel tackled the subject of Creativity in the Brain with one of the panelists reminding us of William Blake's quote, "What is now proved was once only imagined," and another asserting that the creative process in art is totally different than the creative process in science because artists create things out of whole cloth while scientists look at reality and create something from it.
Another panel was quite poignant in its discussion of the intersection of art with Parkinson's disease, with actor Michael J. Fox describing how movement and music help him concentrate on achieving everyday tasks, and relating how his mantra is often "how to lose your brain without losing your mind." David Leventhal, who is the program director and founding teacher of Dance for PD at the Mark Morris Dance Company, showed how teaching dance and rhythm to victim's of Parkinson's helps them move in ways that they normally would not be able to easily achieve. And then a group of participants in the program danced to a set of choreographed movements in an emotional and stirring performance.
Jessica Posner Odele described her work with girls who are growing up in extreme poverty in Kenya, and how she and her husband founded a school for girls that uses theater and critical thinking to transform the lives of vulnerable girls and the urban poor. Renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel discussed his work with young musicians that now reaches over 700,000 students in Venezuela and Latin America. And, composer Tod Machover described his work with crowd sourced symphonies in places such as Toronto, Edinburgh, Perth, and Detroit, which use city sounds that have been recorded by citizens to create a work of symphonic music that is unique to each city.
Eric Schmidt from Google talked about the role of humans in a digital future -- somewhat unconvincingly assuring the audience that computers will never substitute for the creative thinking of humans. Broadcast journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed billionaire businessman and philanthropist Barry Diller about the role of private philanthropy in the arts, and grilled him on his multi-million contribution to create a park and performances spaces on Pier 55 in the Hudson River.
One of the most moving panels came at the end of the day when Haris Pasovic, the director of the East West Theater Company in Sarajevo, and Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast, the founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, spoke about their experiences of presenting and producing art in cities that are (or were) in crisis. Mr. Pasovic described his steps to create a film festival in Sarajevo when it was under siege and citizens were being subjected to daily bombardments with no electricity or running water. A journalist asked him why he was creating a film festival when there was a war going on, and he responded by asking why a war was going on when he was creating a film festival! Dr. Sarmast spoke eloquently about his horrifying experience with a suicide bombing in the middle of a student-written play about suicide bombings, and how the subsequent chaos and loss of life only strengthened his resolve to bring art to the children of Kabul. "Art is the most essential display of our community," he said.
In his remarks, Lincoln Center president Jed Bernstein recalled that Einstein once said that "Imagination is more important than knowledge." This was certainly one of the major themes of the meeting, and the 200 or so participants were treated to both stimulating conversation and provocative performances by the Shen Wei Dance Arts, Akram Kahn Company, Gustavo Dudamel and the Orquesta de Camara de la Sinfonica Nacional Infantil de Venezuela, Youssou N'Dour and others to close out the terrific day.
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