Art Across Cultures: A Chat With Jeremy Jewett, Cultural Affairs Officer, US Embassy Abu Dhabi

 

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 Home for Jeremy is beautiful Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a great little city that is a quintessential American town on the shores of Lake Winnebago. I sat down for a chat with Jeremy as he told me about himself, his work at the embassy, and his perspective on art and culture….

Paul D: What made you decide to move to Abu Dhabi?

Jeremy: Abu Dhabi is my second assignment in the Foreign Service. First, the State Department sent me to Hyderabad, India for a two-year consular assignment. Now I’m here in Abu Dhabi for another two-year posting and for my first taste of public diplomacy.

Paul D: Hyderabad must be very different from Abu Dhabi; how has your experience here been so far?

Jeremy: My wife and I arrived in November 2013. I have to say it gets pretty hot here in the summertime, and I do miss winter back home, but there sure is a lot to like about the UAE. It’s been great to show visitors, both official embassy guests and friends and family who come to visit; a really special place, so unique to this region. The UAE truly is a global crossroads where people of all backgrounds live side by side, all trying to create a better life for themselves and their families. And while there are always so many great events happening around Abu Dhabi and up in Dubai, it’s also great to be able to drive an hour or two and escape into the dunes or the mountains for a night of camping.

Paul D: Describe your position with the US Embassy of Abu Dhabi.

Jeremy: I’m the Cultural Affairs Officer in the Embassy’s public affairs office. It’s a great portfolio. Iget to work with a talented
team of local staffers and great local partners to create events and programmes that promote cross-cultural understanding between Americans and Emiratis. Sometimes that’s arts and culture programs, often it is educational opportunities. For example, I manage the Fulbright Scholarship, which sends talented students and researchers in both directions between our two countries. And another big chunk is the great outreach our EducationUSA team does, working hard to help local students find out everything they need to know about higher education opportunities in America.


Paul D:
What piques your interest when it comes to art and culture?

Jeremy: My dad is a retired English teacher and my mom’s a
retired librarian, so I didn’t have much choice in the matter but to really like books. It was a huge honour to tour through the UAE with Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Marilynne Robinson last year. President Obama even counts her novel “Gilead” among his favourite eight books of all-time! It was special becaus
e it was clear how much her message resonated in a culture where poetry and literatur
e is so strongly treasured, even if she didn’t speak Arabic, or if the audience had never heard of her books. And it’s hardly surprising that my favourite visual art centres on words, too. I picked up an interest in calligraphy in Arabic class, which eventually led to a new kufic logo that links the Embassy and our cultural programswith an ancient regional tradition.

Paul D: What are some cultural events that you have officially supported since you have been here?2

Jeremy: We’ve organized a lot of great arts and music events in the past year. The ambassador’s residence has hosted some great art exhibits. On a more hands-on level, African-American History Art Month featured three American artists here for a month-long residency at the Art Hub, and the programme includes some great workshops. One of my favourite weeks was a great tour by bluegrass sensation Della Mae. One day the five young lady musicians were role models at an all-girls school, the next day they were playing what must have been the first-ever bluegrass concert in Ras al Khaimah.

Paul D:  With the Louvre, Guggenheim, and other institutions come here in the next year or so, the cultural scene here will only grow. What do you think about the growing cultural scene in Abu Dhabi?

Paul D: The US Embassy of Abu Dhabi has become official supporters of the inaugural Abu
Dhabi International Poetry Festival on March 19. Why did you decide to get involved?

Jeremy: The International Poetry Festival is going to be a really fun cross-cultural celebration. There’s so much in poetry that links different people together, no matter the language. We love to see all the private initiatives that showcase and celebrate American culture here in the UAE. We can’t be a part of all of them, of course, but we love to help support programs that bring unique American artists and experts over to engage directly with locals. I’m really excited about the schedule that BrandMoxie and Rooftop Rhythms have put together and the American poets that plan to come to Abu Dhabi.3

Paul D: Where do you see yourself in the next five years? Ten years?

Jeremy: Ha, we don’t even know yet where we’ll be at the end of this year, which is one of the hard parts of the Foreign Service lifestyle. Ten years from now? Maybe back home in Wisconsin, or maybe somewhere new, where a little enthusiasm and a little hard work can go a long way in making the world around me a better place.

Paul D: How can we find out more about upcoming events with the US Embassy?

Jeremy: We always steer people to Facebook and Twitter (@USembUAE) as the best ways to follow the embassy or our consulate in Dubai and upcoming events, but now we’ve got a brand new Instagram account to add to the mix, too. Make sure to check out USAinUAE!

Paul D: Can you make sure you check out this check as well? I didn’t know your cappuccino was so expensive. Did you order gold flakes in it or something? Geesh!

Jeremy: *Stares without speaking*

 

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