US Cultural Ambassador Carlos Mare
I had the pleasure to serve our community at the request of the US State Department as a Cultural Ambassador to Uruguay recently. It was a terrific opportunity to visit a country that lies at the very end of Latin America. Although very distant it is very much a country with a thriving economy and creative community. My role was to bring my experience to students and professors at the Art and Design, School of Architecture,
University of the Republic as well I joined my good friend Henry Chalfant, Dister from NYC and Emmanuel Audelo Enriquez from Mexico for presentations at the SUBTE Art and Exhibition Center.
I was recently interviewed by Dan Feral regarding the position-
CM- I believe there have been other writers in this position, to mind Daze Ellis was just an Ambassador to Ecuador. Its not a permanent position but an opportunity to represent America abroad for cultural exchange. The U.S. State Department and U.S. embassies worldwide regularly work with famous musicians (i.e. Yo Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Mary Wilson), sports figures (i.e. Bernie Williams), journalists, and film producers/directors (i.e. Ron Silver).
CM- It is not partisan nor a permanent post, it is in fact one of the more brilliant things this country does in the form of cultural diplomacy. We have a deep history in this regard but its been a broken link in our policy which President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been mending.
DF- What lead up to your appointement? (who recommended you? how long was
the process leading up to it?)
CM- I was appointed by the Ambassador to Uruguay Jullisa Reynoso who I met several years ago at an informal dinner through a mutual friend writer/activist Raquel Cepeda. It came as a surprise to me but given that I have been talking with several embassies in the Middle East about Ambassadorship it was a destined opportunity in a way. Most meaningful that it is comes from a Latin nation.
DF- What does the job entail in terms of structure and duties? (is this a
full time position? how long is the appointment for? wil you have an
office somewhere? will you be moving to washington DC or going there a
lot? who will you be answering to? do you do press releases and promote
CM- Its not a permanent appointment its an opportunity to represent the artistic culture of America, in this regard ‘Graffiti’ and Hip Hop which is a world culture so I represent not just me but our global community. It is specific to ‘Graffiti art” which I think is unique as it allows me to provide more insight to both the policy makers and educators so they can better understand the underpinnings of potential emerging artists in their communities or as I call them “cultural equity”. I will not be a policy wonk nor hold an official post, perhaps more traveling through the State Department and other foreign embassies. They continually promote art as part of American goodwill and cultural exchange.
DF- What is the purpose of the position? (what is the intent of the
ambassador? what is the message and who is the audience? is there a
difference in the governments reason for the post and what you will want
to do with it?
CM- The purpose is clear, the world has changed and Americas image has been tarnished a bit, that said we still have more of what other countries lack and that is cultural capital, it has been our greatest export for so many years but since art and government have not been particularly good bedfellows it has suffered in recent years. By being able to represent the culture abroad I can present a compelling argument not for vandalism or solely graffiti but for the defense and promotion of living and supporting a free and expressive life. One must remember that Uruguay where I begin my mission had gone through a serious censorship period of text based graffiti during the Dirty Wars of the 1970s-80s, this graffiti was political and considered a serious crime, yet in some small part it transformed the country, it was the voice of the people. So if we can harness the voice of the children creatively imagine what transformations can occur.
DF- Will you be lecturing about the history or agressively
promoting graff as a valid form of expression? explain and justify the
significance of graff to non-believers? will you be dealing with the
issue of vandalism or just focussing on the aesthetics and other
cultural manifestations such as murals, fashion, etc. will you be
dealing with or defending writers that are in trouble here or in other
countries? is it the governments attempt to throw spin when there is
negative backlash to graffiti or to agressively promote it as a postive
CM- I will be speaking broadly about the topic but focusing on ‘potential’ -the creative power of the culture and the social and economic opportunities for young artists. I want to see more Latino artists engaged in arts in their community, academy and the art market. These areas where we are largely under represented and marginalized by a system of economics, class and race, need to be addressed by explaining the repercussions of this underrepresentation, I hope the message of ‘cultural capital’ gets understood. Art is not just for the rich, white or privileged its a universal experience and by product of many many people across many continents and herein lays the power of the graffiti/hip hop culture where the lines of color amalgamate to form a loose knit community of common interest in arts.
DF- Will you be creating your own agenda or are there things already set in
motion that you will be dealing with? (do you have goals in mind that
includes certain artists, groups, locations or issues?)
CM-I will be addressing university students and Diplomats Im sure.