Next month, The Ilan-Lael Foundation , an “arts education foundation celebrating nature and the aesthetic of the built environment for its ability to help us see ourselves and our world in new ways,” will host a 3-day cross border meeting in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico called “Art Diplomacy”, part of the Foundation’s “Gateway Conversations” program.

The Gateway program, as founder and artist Jim Hubble put it, is to convene a “conversation around the power of art to foster friendships and understanding among nations.” According to Marianne Gerdes, Executive Director of the Foundation, international representatives from “Jeju S. Korea, Kaoshuing, Taiwan, Vladivostok, Russia, and Mexico” will be coming to the event and continuing the dialogue about how art can transcend boundaries.

Maybe it all begins with a conversation. Then followed by a concerted effort to create a sense of community, a sense of togetherness among people of the world. These discussions, these events, are critical to finding ways to build bridges not walls, if we are to reverse the present course around the world. This is not an easy task but we are confronted with a world gone awry.

The Economist Magazine recently wrote: “From Warsaw to Washington, the political divide that matters is less and less between left and right, and more and more between open and closed. Debates between tax-cutting conservatives and free-spending social democrats have not gone away. But issues that cross-traditional party lines have grown more potent. Welcome immigrants or keep them out? Open up to foreign trade or protect domestic industries? Embrace cultural change, or resist it?”

CNBC told its viewers: “The refugee crisis in Europe and concerns over the economy, jobs and terrorism are very much related to one another in the minds of many Europeans” … that “In 8 of 10 European nations surveyed by the (PEW) Washington-based think tank, more than 50 percent of the people surveyed believed that incoming refugees increased “the likelihood of terrorism in their country.” The US seems to have its own unique concerns about terrorism but also with race, creed, color, gender, sex, immigration and jobs too.

These fears are not unique to the US and Europe. The world over is suffering from the same ills, and the “digital divide” – the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not- has exaggerated the fear of being left-out, left-behind, marginalized.

The social and economic fabric of the human race is at stake across the world. Nations are turning inward. And In some cases, building walls (often real walls as the US plans to do with Mexico) to keep out immigrants, cut off international trade or simply, make it difficult to travel across boundaries.

While there are countless disciplines, which might reasonably serve as a means to understanding culture, such as history, sociology, mathematics, and science, only art lends itself to the full range of experiential capabilities offered by the new technologies.

It is the Internet and the worldwide web, this new technological marvel that has made the world smaller and compels worldwide debate and discussion; and provides the threshold for the world’s greatest assets of artists, policymakers, academics and art and culture itself, to become the glue for discussions about a New World Community.

I don’t have a specific agenda and I am not at all sure what can be done, but let’s start to:

  • Support and encourage similar cross border collaborations.
  • Be sure parents and students know that the new economy means new thinking skills and that the arts, and arts integration, lead to the creative skills most in demand.
  • Find ways to reach young people all over the world. It could be an art appreciation program in every school, an annual contest where students from around the world are recognized.
  • Use the Web to be sure artists from around the world are both recognized and their art explained in a way that social, political and economic issues if appropriate, are made clear.
  • Train artists to be advocates and help them express themselves.
  • Create a Noble prize for artists and art advocates.
  • Establish a PR program including events showcasing issues of importance aimed at the art and culture community.
  • Help cities establish art and cultural districts.
  • Encourage Museums to embrace the political and like the Museum of Modern Art, according to the New York Times, install “works by artists from some of the majority-Muslim nations whose citizens were going to be blocked from entering the United States.”
  • Aggressively support and encourage the funding of national and international organizations responsible for art, culture or the humanities.
  • Create a global web site that educates, informs and coordinates the larger art and culture community and others as concerned.

Clearly there are a number of things we can do to help citizens everywhere realize that we have a common heritage, a vibrant world culture and national histories that transcend the politics of nations.