In partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural Programs Division in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, World Learning is administering the Communities Connecting HeritageSM Program. The program engages at-risk communities, empowers youth, and builds partnerships between communities in the U.S. and in key strategic world regions through exchange projects that explore cultural heritage topics. These projects advance tangible and intangible cultural heritage appreciation and preservation through community outreach and public education and by reinforcing positive narratives.
After a competitive process, newly formed partnerships between six U.S. and six international organizations will implement mutually designed cultural heritage preservation projects that will be carried out through virtual exchanges and reciprocal in-person exchanges, as well as public exhibitions engaging their larger communities. Following are brief descriptions of six cultural heritage preservation projects that will be implemented in spring and summer 2018.
Creative Economy Group (Serbia) and Global Ties Akron (Ohio, USA)
Global Threads will train up to 20 university-aged citizen journalists whose written articles, video interviews, and photos will capture the cultural heritage and stories of artists who represent the ethnic communities of Kikinda, Serbia and of Akron, Ohio’s resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugees. The culminating outputs will bring together the participating student journalists, administrators, ethnic cultural preservation artists, leaders, and two communities to celebrate the launch of the Global Threads Online Magazine and Food Art Expo as a sustainable annual collaborative initiative that will increase community awareness and support for ethnic artisans.
Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels BOZAR (Belgium) and Gallaudet University (District of Columbia, USA)
Connecting Capitals will use art-making, education, and technology to connect and empower up to 20 Deaf youth ages 18-27 from the US and Belgium to be thoughtful and engaged citizens through a deeper understanding of their respective Deaf heritages. Through two exhibitions, public events, artistic co-creation, and a dedicated app, the project will strengthen awareness and understanding of Deaf and Non-Deaf Belgian and American culture and values, build sustainable networks for collaboration, and promote cross-cultural understanding. At its core, the project is about youth civic engagement, collaboration, social inclusion, and celebrating difference through Deaf Heritage as both distinct from and interconnected with broader American and Belgian heritage.
Cultural Heritage without Borders (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Coastal Heritage Alliance (Maryland, USA)
Saving What Matters
Saving What Matters will inspire and educate up to ten university students from University of Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Goucher College (Maryland, USA) in how cultural heritage preservation can be used as a tool in community development projects on a local, regional, and international scale. The ceramics collection from the Visnjica site in central Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the unique US maritime heritage from the region of the Chesapeake Bay and the State of Maryland, with their respective communities and tradition bearers struggling to preserve this heritage in both countries, will be explored by the ten participants who will then present stories from these communities using digital storytelling (DST) methodology, which they will learn during the virtual exchange. These stories, followed by hands-on experience with heritage traditions during the in-person exchange, will dig deep into the field of heritage preservation and cultural sustainability by engaging and documenting those in underserved communities who struggle daily to keep their valued traditions alive in the face of rapidly changing times, and will serve as a model for future cultural heritage professional training.
Athar Lina (Cairo, Egypt) and Avenue 50 Studio (California, USA)
Through Walls: A Heritage Dialogue
The partnership between Avenue 50 Studio and Athar Lina Initiative has one common goal: to celebrate and preserve cultural heritage through visual art that speaks to and empowers young women and at-risk communities by creating two murals, one in Los Angeles, California, and the other in Cairo, Egypt. Up to ten young female artists, ages 18-30 years old, will explore commonalities between two cultural groups (Chicano and Egyptian) in order to build further understanding of the value of not only preserving cultural monuments and histories, but of observing commonalities between their cultures.
Khoj International Artists Association (New Delhi, India) and Global 1-to-1 (New Mexico, USA)
Voices from the Margins
Voices from the Margins will connect up to 12 at-risk youth ages 17-21 from marginalized and underserved communities in New Delhi (specifically those of the Khirkee culture) and New Mexico (specifically those of Chicano and Native American cultures) through virtual and in-person exchanges where they will have the opportunity to explore their own and each other’s unique cultural heritage by looking at the ways that their respective languages can work together to create new forms of expression in poetry and music. The groups will ultimately produce a collaborative music video together. The project aims to help both participants and the audiences they reach realize the value of cultural heritage and the importance of cultural preservation, and intends to use cultural heritage to empower youth to assert their place in positive and inclusive social change in their local and global communities while fostering enduring international relationships and collaborations.
Contact Base (Kolkata, India) and Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (District of Columbia, USA)
Learning Together Toward a Brighter Future
This project will explore the role of community-based cultural enterprises in fostering social inclusion and empowerment, and will challenge up to 20 U.S. university students from disadvantaged backgrounds and 20 traditional artists in India to explore community-based cultural enterprise and heritage preservation methods through storytelling and folk music. Both in-person exchanges will culminate in dynamic interactions with each community during the World Peace Music Festival in India and the Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. The overall objectives are to engage youth in heritage promotion and conservation, to enhance knowledge of storytelling and folk music traditions in both countries, to increase use of digital platforms for Indian artists, and to share good practices in sustaining cultural traditions and developing cultural enterprises. The exchange will culminate in a webcast broadcast to cultural preservation educators and students to share best practices on connecting traditional artists with young professionals.
More information about project can be found on World Learning Center.