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Engaging Audiences in a Dialogue

Executive Director's Letter
December 8, 2015

Over recent decades, we have undergone head-spinning advances in technology, globalization, progress, violence, extremism, and social unrest. At a time of great promise for innovation and enlightenment, we are caught in a maelstrom of contradictions between hope and hate speech. Advancement in women’s rights vs. the international war on women; widening acceptance of gay marriage vs. transgender phobias; increased diversity in our cities vs. anti-immigration rhetoric, a deepening mainstream understanding of oppression as validated through cell phone video footage vs. a lack of accountability for institutional brutality.

While not necessarily making sense of it all, cultural explorations are engaging audiences in a dialogue and calling into question assumptions and prejudice. The Walters Art Museum's special exhibition Pearls on a String: Artists, Patron, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts explores how the great Mughal, Safavid, and Ottoman empires flourished during a time of rapid change and artistic innovation in the Islamic world, as people, ideas, and technologies spread across Europe and Asia. At the heart of the empires' courts were networks of individuals—writers, poets, artists, craftsmen all telling a story far from preconceptions about and minimization of Muslim culture today.

As we remain riveted by the Freddie Gray trials and simultaneous incidents in other cities like Chicago, Anna Deavere Smith’s performance at Center Stage last weekend was a heartbreaking exploration of the children caught up in “the cycle of suspension from school and incarceration prevalent among low-income minority youth. Poverty, violence, trauma, and school discipline policies send vulnerable children into the pipeline, disrupting their development and producing a destructive cycle that truncates futures.” From the Mayor, to witnesses, to teachers and others, Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The Baltimore Chapter created a nuanced, personal, and troubling examination of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Whether deeply probing or thoughtfully provocative, works and exhibitions such as these create a critical framework in which to understand our world and disrupt our assumptions about the future.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

With regards,

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