The Arts-Policy Nexus

The Arts-Policy Nexus is a cross-cutting initiative of the World Policy Institute, directed by Senior Fellow Todd Lester that provides urgently needed support to artists grappling with intractable social issues. The work of many photographers, visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, poets and writers deals with the same challenges that keep policy makers up at night. These artists bring a fresh approach to policy issues like water and food sovereignty, human rights, migration, social inclusion, sustainability, climate justice, forced eviction and economic development, as well as firsthand accounts of citizen initiatives around the world. At the same time, policymakers and opinion leaders are seeking creative ways to catalyze innovation and engage wider coalitions in solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. Policy entrepreneurs may have access to the formal channels that can turn ideas and movements into lasting change in institutions and societies; however creative strategies can help to humanize their ideas and prescriptions, and connect with a broader public.

Despite the obvious benefits that collaboration can bring, there is not enough of a two-way dialogue between socially-engaged artists and policymakers. Policymakers often dismiss what artists have to say because it is not the formal language of public administrators, lawmakers, and diplomats, and because quantitative or scientific method-derived evaluation models do not easily convey the impact of artists’ work. Finding new ways to connect likeminded – yet isolated – groups in order to create broader constituencies for human-centered public policy may be crucial to our collective future.

The Arts-Policy Nexus simultaneously acknowledges creative resources within the fifty-year old World Policy Institute’s community and seeks to bring diverse voices to the policy table, providing a fertile, unique arena for solidifying common goals between traditionally disconnected camps.  The Arts and Policy Nexus facilitates collaboration among artists whose work addresses social challenges and policy makers seeking creative ways to reach hearts and minds. In essence, the Nexus is an outreach and engagement approach that offers a suite of services and networking opportunities to artists, policy makers, journalists, movement leaders, community organizers and funders working on common issues.

The Nexus strives for more open dialogue and collaboration between the creative and policy camps. It seeks to empower artists to navigate funding and policy structures, while policymakers gain access to creative approaches for re-framing policy issues and designing campaigns to effectively disseminate new ideas and outcomes to a broader public. The World Policy Institute believes this will result in more effective policymaking and communication of policy needs and goals, as well as a collaborative model for social change in which artists and policymakers share equal footing. 

Through public events, focused roundtable discussions, and facilitated one-on-one meetings, the Arts-Policy Nexus is convening and pairing artists and policy makers working on related issues with the goal of building collaborative projects, campaigns and platforms that promise more equitable policy outcomes. To this end, the World Policy Journal documents innovative examples at the nexus of art, culture, community, place and public policy through an ongoing blog series that has the potential to evolve into both a speaker’s bureau and the baseline for a range of case studies.

The World Policy Institute works across a range of issues requiring cooperation across borders and disciplines. We have already developed robust cross-sectoral networks around core themes like migration, economy, and sustainability. Bringing more creative voices into these networks through the Arts-Policy Nexus is a natural next step.

Policy Papers:

A Re-imagination of Policy and Health

On May 1, 2015, an Artist Roundtable (A.RT) hosted by World Policy Institute’s Arts-Policy Nexus brought together 11 like-minded artists for a conversation focused on the relationship between health, wellness, and agency. After this discussion, Canadian-based organization Musagetes commissioned "A Re-imagination of Policy and Health: Toward the Creation of an Arts/Health/Policy Nexus," by Nicolle Bennett, as part of the online platform and its related projects, to further explore shifts in our approaches to health and health policy.

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Recent Events:

June 11, 2014 – Who is Dayani Cristal? A Film Screening and Salon

World Policy Institute, CultureStrike, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop present a film screening of "Who is Dayani Cristal?" and political salon on migration, border security, and social justice.

For a sampling of the issues that the film raises, check out the following articles from World Policy’s Arts Policy Nexus Blog:

October 11, 2013 – Beyond Cultural Diplomacy: Arts, Policy and Change – Panel Discussions and Reception
Cultural diplomacy is morphing before our eyes, extending beyond its traditional bounds into the space of humanitarian action and social movements. Today's program brings together artists, policy makers, philanthropists, diplomats, cultural organizations, business, and thought leaders to explore the power and potential of arts-policy collaborations.
September 17, 2013 – Mo & Me: A Screening and Conversation

World Policy Institute and Fireside Research present a screening of the award winning feature length documentary film on renowned Kenyan photojournalist Mohamed ‘Mo’ Amin, whose coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine drew the world’s attention to the crisis. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Salim Amin; Chip Duncan of The Duncan Group; and pioneering journalist Riz Khan around Mo Amin’s legacy, the power of photojournalism to reach hearts as well as minds, and the changing role of the photojournalist in a world of digital photography. 

The first installation of the 12×12 Project, a World Policy Institute project on smart consumption, begins with a community build at the Queens Botanical Garden. Artist Simon Draper, in collaboration with and with assistance from the White Roof ProjectBus RootsAellon and The Refugee and Immigrant Fund, will erect the first living art installation of the project.

In recognition of World Refugee Day, join documentary photographer Pete Pin and World Policy Journal managing editor Christopher Shay as they explore the unique imprint of the legacy of the Killing Fields on the Cambodian-American diaspora and the power of artistic expression in empowering a new generation as guardians of their family story.

In Forced to Flee, partner organization Arts and Democracy, together with freeDimensional, presents refugee artists, artists forced into exile, cultural organizers and their allies as they talk about how they are using the power of art and culture to amplify the voices and visions of those forced to flee their countries of origin.

May 16, 2013 – State of the Arts Ecosystem

Join us for conversation and libations with thought leaders from across the cultural spectrum. This panel discussion will explore recent and emerging trends in arts philanthropy and cultural policy in NYC and across the country. We'll unpack the complex questions surrounding these important issues, learn about the approaches of various institutions, and examine the roles they play, individually and collectively, in shaping our cultural landscape.

May 2, 2013 – Around the Table
The world needs people with fresh ideas and global perspectives to be seated “around the table” in order to catalyze innovative thinking on challenges that span borders. The World Policy Institute’s second annual dinner puts this ethos in to action, with a discussion on the Arts-Policy Nexus across five key themes.
April 23, 2013 – Fish and Crushed Can Story
The exhibit was created from discarded, crushed aluminum cans found on the streets, cardboard and burlap from a local grocery, along with wordless hand-made books about a fish and a crushed can.  The story illustrates how growth is disrupted by invasive species. 
March 20, 2013 – Arts and Resilience
In this Arts Forum co-sponsored with the Municipal Arts Society of New York, panelists considered the role of artists as agents for resilient rebuilding and sustainable communities.  
November 8, 2012 – The Arts-Policy Nexus
For the launch of the Arts-Policy Nexus project, this Salon and Cocktail provided a fascinating discussion on the creative ways to engage more people in solving the world's biggest challenges.
A concert presentation of Juan Colon’s composition, “The Parsley Massacre,” commemorating the 1937 massacre of Haitians on the Dominican Republic border was followed by a panel discussion.
Three remarkable activists and writers discuss their experiences at the turbulent intersections of political oppression, human rights, and creative expression.

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