THE BLOG
07/06/2010 08:20 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Our Summer Fellows

Last week a new class of summer fellows arrived at the Kennedy Center for a four-week session. The summer fellows program brings arts managers from nations around the world to the Kennedy Center. The fellows come for three years in a row to study fundraising, marketing, financial management and planning. The program is a three-year program because we want our students to learn, to go home and experiment, to come back and learn some more and so forth. Simply giving them some information and sending them on their way would not be sufficient.

Our summer fellows are smart, ambitious and determined to make a difference in their home countries. They are extraordinary ambassadors for their nations. But virtually all of them live in countries where there is little or no access to arts management training. They have learned to manage their organizations on their own.

Patrick-Jude Oteh, from Jos, Nigeria, runs a theater company that has not only had to cope with a dearth of donors, the difficulty of building an audience, and the challenges of creating a board, but he does it while insurgents are killing and raping hundreds of people in his town.

Zvonimir Dubrovik, just 29 years old, successfully created and maintained for seven years a substantial gay arts festival in Zagreb, Croatia. While developing this project successfully, he also created a new contemporary arts festival and is about to develop a project in New York City.

Noora Baker runs a modern dance company in Ramallah, Palestine, and Tanya Surtees an avant-garde theater company in Cape Town, South Africa, that mixes deaf and hearing actors.

There are 41 such stories this summer, as we welcome, for the first time, a first-year class and returning second and third year students. Now in its steady state, the summer institute will allow each summer fellow to interact with five classes, or some 75 international arts managers, over the three-year course. This "United Nations of arts management" is creating a network of well-trained arts entrepreneurs who are certain to shape the arts world for decades to come.

And working on an ongoing basis with these immensely talented individuals also confirms our belief that cultural diplomacy is about building long-term relationships. We build relationships with these amazing individuals who will truly lead their nations in the years to come. The art they produce will help shape the minds of the citizens of their countries. The relationships we form, that continue long after the fellowship is over, can only help America rebuild its image abroad. The image created of American generosity (our fellows all receive full scholarships), expertise and belief that the health of the arts world anywhere depends on the health of arts organizations everywhere must certainly make an impact.

As our happy band of international arts leaders celebrates July Fourth together, watching fireworks and sharing a picnic, one develops great hope not just for the world of the arts but for the world itself.