12oz Exclusive Interview: Carlos Mare Appointed US Ambassador of Graffiti
In September, Mare139 was elected as a US State Cultural Ambassador to share his knowledge and experience as a pioneering graffiti writer with the world. Congratulations, Carlos!
Read the 12ozProphet exclusive interview below to get the full story in Carlos’s own words…
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. I joined my good friend Henry Chalfant from NYC and Emmanuel Audelo Enriquez from Mexico for presentations at the SUBTE Art and Exhibition Center.
12oz: How long has the position been in existence? Have other writers also held such positions?
I believe there have been other writers in this position, to mind Daze Ellis was recently 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). The position 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.
What lead to your appointment?
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.
What does the job entail in terms of structure and duties?
Its not necessarily an appointment, so much as 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 potential of emerging artists in their communities or as I call them “cultural assets.” 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.
What is the message, purpose and intent of the position?
The purpose is clear. The world has changed and America’s 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.
Will you be lecturing about the history or promoting illegal graff as a valid form of expression?
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 this needs to be addressed because this underrepresentation does have repercussions. I hope the message of “cultural capital” is understood. Art is not just for the rich, white or privileged. It’s a universal experience that requires support to those on the margins or on the threshold of new ideas, this to me advances not just art but humanity.
Who is the audience?
I will be addressing university students, diplomats, artists, writers any one who will listen.
To keep up with Carlos’s activities as ambassador follow his 12oz blog.
From everyone at 12ozProphet, Congratulations Carlos!
Text: Daniel Feral
Photo: Carlos Mare