International Presenters' Forum

A Meeting Report

February 1998, appx. 40 pages, Arts International, 809 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, 212-984-5370, fax 212-984-5574, ainternational[at]

We were pleased to receive a report from the International Presenters' Forum meeting, held on January 8 and 9, 1998. The Forum is a program of Arts International, a division of the Institute of International Education. The January meeting was an historic event: it was the first of its size and scope to focus exclusively on international presenting and touring in the U.S. Delegates to the meeting included presenters, managers, artists, and representatives of government agencies, service organizations, and foundations. U.S. delegates met on January 8 to discuss problems and opportunities in the import and export of performing arts in the U.S. On January 9, international delegates, including delegates from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, met to consider the U.S. market, international networks, and possible future partnerships. The goal of the meeting was to explore opportunities for increased collaboration both in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Opening speakers from the U.S. identified the trend toward increased globalization, with "presenters now bringing artists from an increasingly broad range of countries — frequently for audiences that are themselves multicultural.” They reported that these developments “have increased the need for a more cohesive national approach to international presenting. In general, such an approach would address the development of national policies, systems for sharing information, structures for exploiting economies of scale, and tools for more effective presenting.”

This report contains the written remarks of several speakers and panelists, such as Gerald Yoshitomi of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Philip Bither of the Walker Art Center, Olga Garay of Miami-Dade Community College, Harvey Lichtenstein of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, David Evans of the British Council USA, Yu Yuh-Chao of the Chinese Information and Culture Center, and Baltazar Endriga of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, among others. Some brief quotations follow.

Grantmakers interested in devising ways to support international cultural exchange will find this report very useful background reading. Some GIA members may wish to contact Arts International to learn about the next meetings that explore this important topic.

“While we continue to be a market for performances of American, European, and even African artists — what with our national population of almost 70 million, 10 million in Manila alone — we hold that the rest of the world will benefit as well by taking a look at what we have to offer.... The Philippines has more to offer than just the quaint and the peculiar flavor inherent in its folk dances and traditions.... The performing arts in the Philippines has synthesized its rich experience into forms that combine the historic and modern, western and Asian, old and new.”
- Baltazar Endriga

“Just as U.S. business has had to respond to tough competition from many different parts of the globe, so cultural institutions have had to respond to cultural activities and traditions from around the world, as well as to new and more exacting management practices.” - Harvey Lichtenstein

“In the last ten years, our world has changed, as have our audiences and artists we present. Today we are presenting the art of the world, and, in many communities, attempting to reach broad audiences who have come to our cities from throughout the world. The amounts spent annually on artists fees for international artists by participants in this meeting... range from $25,000 to $1,000,000 per year.... It is no longer just cultural exchange but import and export, it's about discussing cultural relationships and discussing what we do and why we do it.”
- Gerald Yoshitomi

“I believe that the field is now facing a rare moment of opportunity to take a concentrated leap forward by the development of more unified and systematic approaches toward international work.”
- Philip Bither