On Friday, we hosted a lively art opening focusing on the theme of multiculturalism viewed through the lens of Chicago art. The exhibit was sponsored by the State Department’s “Arts in Embassies” program which enables each Ambassadorial couple to adorn their home with American art in order to share our culture with others. See photos from the party here.
The sun was shining and a tantalizing breeze flowed through our residence promising the imminent arrival of summer as we opened our home to a dynamic array of guests— from art connoisseurs to young activists running programs supporting tolerance within Sweden to radio hosts and the Minister of Culture— and brought the house down singing and swaying to the amazing Stockholm Gospel choir who sang traditional, Chicago-inspired gospel songs.
The story of Chicago for me personifies the American dream. Like many Chicagoans, I’m the daughter of immigrants who came here to give their kids a better life and better opportunities to grow, get an education, achieve their goals, no matter how far-fetched they seemed.
I grew up on the Southwest Side of Chicago, in an idyllic neighborhood of different cultures, faces and names, all living shoulder-to-shoulder in modest, square houses. My neighbors on one side were Mexican-Americans, on the other side African-Americans, and across the street they hailed from Lithuania, Poland and India. We didn’t see our differences in culture or religion. Instead we focused on our similarities like a mutual love for kick-ball, Michael Jordan or Chicago-style deep dish pizza.
This feeling that “we are all in this life together” is what I have striven to bring to Sweden through our Arts in Embassies Program. I am not an art connoisseur but I took this task very seriously by spending weeks in Chicago, scouting out art and artists with a story of multiculturalism and a message of tolerance. I wanted to highlight not only the art, but the story and identity of the artist as a commentary on their work. I also could not have implemented this vision without the hard work, faith and professionalism of the State Department’s Arts in Embassies directors, in particular Robert Soppelsa, the curator who I worked with closely. I learned so much from Bob and his talented team, thank you!
The nine artists I was fortunate to include are all amazing artists but more importantly amazing, socially responsible people. They range in age from their 20s to 80s, and hail from Puerto Rico to Poland. Each uses their work to enact positive change in their communities and mentor the young generation focusing on a message of hope and tolerance.
Having a greater purpose beyond one self and a strong engagement in the outside world is something I have found to be integral to the Swedish culture as well. And I’m very proud to have the opportunity to bring Chicago art here to Sweden, to celebrate all we have in common as Chicagoans, Americans, Swedes and citizens of this world.
Please view this link to see the artists and their great work on the State Department’s web site.