cultural exchange

Cultural Exchanges: Strengthening Ties between the U.S. and the World

Background on Cultural Exchange Advocacy

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department is responsible for our nation’s public diplomacy activities including international cultural exchange programs. Within ECA is the Cultural Programs Division of the Office of Citizen Exchanges. This division focuses on cultural diplomacy, arts exchanges, and collaboration. Its programs share the rich artistic traditions of the United States in the visual and performing arts, film, arts education, arts management, and cultural studies with nations abroad.

The Cultural Programs Division provides grant opportunities to U.S. nonprofits for cultural exchange activities; residencies, mentoring, and training programs; programs sponsored by U.S. Embassy public diplomacy offices; and presentations at major international visual arts exhibitions and cultural centers. Support for cultural exchange and cultural diplomacy has never fully recovered from the elimination of the United States Information Agency (USIA) and its Arts America Program in 1999.

PAA continues to advocate with the broader arts and exchanges community for appropriations and increased capacity for the cultural programs division, for research and evaluation on the impact of cultural diplomacy, and for increased outreach and transparency about cultural exchange programs.

See the 2016 Cultural Exchanges Issue Brief for background information and talking points about What’s At Stake.

What We're Asking For

We urge Congress to:

  • Appropriate $110 million to the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs within the FY 2017 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill.

  • Direct the State Department to dedicate increased resources to, and increase operational capacity within, the Cultural Programs Division to strengthen its ability to oversee grants and programs. Despite increases overall for the Office of Citizen Exchanges, this division is funded at lower levels now than five years ago. This funding includes the competitively awarded programs run by the division and those run by the State Department.

  • Encourage the State Department to evaluate and publicly report on the impact, value, and success of arts diplomacy as part of its smart power strategies to build cross-cultural understanding.

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Recent Activity

Increased Funding Recommended for Cultural Exchanges

On July 12, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its FY17 State and Foreign Operations spending bill. It included the same amounts for cultural exchange programs that were a part of a draft subcommittee bill release last week:

  • $112 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges
  • $602.79 million overall for Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs

Both the Senate and House have recommended increases for the Office of Citizen Exchanges and the ECA overall. The next step in the regular order for appropriations bills is for the full House and Senate to debate and vote on their respective bills.

Senate Appropriators Finish State Dept. Bill; House Begins Discussions

At the end of June, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to mark up the FY17 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. This bill contains funding for cultural exchange programs in the Office of Citizen Exchanges. The Office is within the State Dept.’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

The committee recommended $107.69 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges, an increase of $5.69 million over FY16. The overall recommendation for ECA is $627.8 million, a $36.89 million increase over FY16. The next step for this bill is consideration by the full Senate.

On July 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its version of the bill. A draft released before the markup showed a recommendation of $112 million for the Office of Citizen Exchanges. This would be $4.31 million more than recommended by Senate appropriators and $10 million more than FY16. The draft also showed an overall recommendation of $602.79 million for ECA, which would be $11.89 million over FY16. The next step for this bill is consideration by the full House Appropriations Committee.

The amounts reported for the Office of Citizen Exchanges represent the total funding for a variety of exchange programs, including arts, sports, and youth programs. Federal budgets do not indicate totals for each individual program. PAA and arts advocates are asking for at least $110 million for the Office of Citizen exchanges in FY17.

Senate Takes Up State Dept. Appropriations Bill

Senate appropriators are schedule to meet this week to discuss the FY17 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill. This bill contains funding for the Office of Citizen Exchanges at the State Department which operates international cultural exchange programs such as Arts Envoy and American Music Abroad.

The subcommittee met on Tuesday, June 28 and with little discussion, committee members quickly recommended the bill go on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee on June 29 for consideration of amendments. The House has not yet scheduled a date to consider this bill. PAA and the arts community are asking Congress for $110 million in FY17. 

Apply to Adminster State Department Cultural Exchange Programs

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department is inviting proposals from public and private U.S. organizations to administer three international exchange programs: Hip Hop Collaboration and Community Arts Incubation Creative Arts Exchange programs (CAE), and Arts Envoy.

CAE initiatives are arts-based people-to-people international exchanges that support and further U.S. Department of State foreign policy objectives. The Hip Hop Collaboration program will engage hip hop artists for artistic collaboration, entrepreneurial skills-building, and outreach to youth to explore and address conflict resolution strategies.  The Community Arts Incubation program will send approximately six to eight American artists abroad to collaborate with local youth and under-served populations on community-based art projects in new media and/or digital arts. Applicants must be U.S. non-profit arts and educational organizations.  Apply here by Thursday, May 26, 2016.

The Arts Envoy exchange program annually enables approximately 200 American artists and cultural experts (either individuals or groups) to travel abroad to engage and consult with key foreign audiences through performances, workshops, meetings, seminars, and appearances in foreign media. Full details can be found here. Applicants must be U.S. public or private organizations. Apply here by Friday, May 27, 2016.

House Approves Increase for Citizen Exchanges

On June 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY16 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies bill at $582.531 million. This bill contains funding for the Office of Citizen Exchanges which operates international artistic cultural exchange programs–such as DanceMotion USA and Arts Envoy–at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Though the overall amount of this bill is both less than the President’s FY16 request and less than FY15 enacted levels, the amount appropriated to the Office of Citizen Exchanges, $102 million, is an increase over both the President’s request ($90 million) and FY15 enacted levels ($100 million). 

PAA advocates with the greater arts community for Congress to approve $110 million for cultural exchanges in FY16. Stay tuned for updates as the Senate considers its State and Foreign Operations bill, likely to occur after the July 4th recess.

PAA joins the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange

To strengthen its efforts in advocacy for international artistic cultural exchanges, PAA joined The Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange. The Alliance is an association of 90 nongovernmental organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the United States.

As the only collective public policy voice of the international exchange community, the Alliance promotes the growth and impact of exchange programs by engaging in advocacy, providing member development opportunities, and building public awareness of the power of exchange.

PAA participated in The Alliance’s Advocacy Day in early March and spoke with congressional staff members about the importance of artistic cultural exchanges for international diplomacy.

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