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International Artists Exchange

Why would a tiny rural arts organization want to start an international exchange?


Upon reflection, many of us working with Hampton Friends of the Arts, Inc. have realized that our perspectives and understandings as creatives have been shaped by our exposure to artists, audiences, and mentors from other countries. We feel that bringing international perspectives to small communities like ours, which are isolated in many ways due to geography and lack of access to transportation and high-speed internet, is essential. We would argue that such a program is more needed here than in a large city - most major cities already have whole communities of people from other countries.

The goal of this effort is to foster international creative exchange, deepen understanding across cultures, and create ties between artists and communities here in the Lowcountry and our counterparts abroad. International arts exchange is fundamental because it creates an environment for genuine understanding, enhances the education of all citizens, fosters tolerance of diverse cultures within our own country, and prepares us to contribute both artistically and economically within an increasingly global society. Valuable cultural exchange is mutual and offers the opportunity for deeper and prolonged connection between artists and encourages responsible global citizenry.


In June 2024, we will be sending a team of artists and volunteers to Cartegena, Colombia where we will engage with rural Afro-Colombian communities in partnership with a Colombian nonprofit, FEM (Fundación por la Educación Multidimensional). We will bring art supplies and teach some classes for local students, share stories about life and culture in the rural lowcountry and explore connections between our history here in the Gullah-Geechee heritage corridor, and the history & culture of Afro-Colombian communities in the wake of colonialism. We will also contribute to the creation of a mural in the community of Sincerin.


We hope to return, not only with a deeper understanding of our own culture, but with a plan to bring artists from Colombia to Hampton County for residencies in upcoming months. The opening of the Lowcountry Artists & Writers Retreat in Estill, SC will give us space to house visiting artists for an extended period of time. We hope this will be the move that jump starts a regular international exchange program which will enable our young people to interact at deep and authentic levels with international artists — creative individuals whose worldviews and experiences are vastly different from theirs. Ideally the combined exposure will help established artists and presenters to find new audiences for their work, and emerging local artists to find  international connections, collaborators, and friends.

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