The Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of State recently convened ambassadors, dignitaries, art world luminaries and artists, including Warren-based landscape painter Thomas Paquette, for a celebration in Washington.
The group was in DC to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Art in Embassies (AIE) program, an office of the State Department that over the last 18 years has sent dozens of Paquette's paintings to embassies on five continents. It also sent him personally on a cultural exchange to Greece in 2006 to lecture at museums and universities, and to meet with Greek artists.
The celebration spanned two days and included a panel discussion moderated by Glenn Lowry, director of New York's Museum of Modern Art. There also was an awards ceremony in which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Medal of Arts awards to five international artist-celebrities Jeff Koons, Cai Guo-Qiang, Kiki Smith, Shahzia Sikander,and Carrie Mae Weems.
At the US embassy in Amman, Jordan: “Changing Land,” oil on canvas, 39 x 54 inches.
Secretary Clinton spoke about the art and the artists who have contributed to AIE: "They provide us with another language of diplomacy, one that evokes our universal aspirations as human beings, our common challenges, and our responsibilities for thinking through and addressing the problems that we face together." The celebration concluded with a colorful multimedia-enhanced gala at the National Museum of American Art, hosted by Secretary Clinton and the Director of the Smithsonian Institution, G. Wayne Clough.
At the gala, Paquette and his wife, Ellen, also met Sally Mansfield, the essayist for Paquette's 2007 book, Gouaches, and some of the AIE curators who placed his work in 16 embassies to date. Currently, his paintings hang in Gabon, Jordan and Guyana. According to their website, "the AIE mission is two-fold - to create the highest quality art exhibitions for ambassador residences, embassies, and consulates overseas, and to further the Department's cultural diplomacy outreach through the sponsorship of artist exchanges that foster cross-cultural understanding."