The Role of Arts and Culture in an Open Society

You could say it takes a wild imagination to picture a truly open society—one where freedom of expression and democracy are paramount, and where no one holds a monopoly on the truth. Envisioning such a world is the starting point for the Open Society Foundations’ work. And often, it is the arts that make manifest that vision, lending form to our goals and ideals.

We have long supported artistic endeavors that aim to inspire this type of change. Our Serbian and Kosovo foundations worked with both of those governments to create a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a metaphor for promoting reconciliation between the two countries which brought the audience to tears. We supported a photography exhibition designed to prompt debate about official government apologies in advance of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. And our foundation in Haiti helped bring to the stage a theater festival aimed at civic-minded youth to spur debate on issues ranging from corruption to intellectual freedom.

In each of these instances, the arts have been key to bringing about positive change. We will continue to support arts and culture as we work to propel the ideals of open society forward. By giving shape and voice to the goals we’re striving to achieve, we remind ourselves that the world we hope to someday see already exists in our creative endeavors.

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Thanks for this - it is very encouraging and of course many of us in the arts believe it and have plenteous stories to back it up. However we are increasingly asked by funders/potential funders to provide "hard evidence" for art's efficacy and this seems more elusive. Any sources you think we should be using? or are we in need of a thorough piece of evaluative research to bring the many micro-evidences together into one place?

It depends on which art form you are referring to, I've in music. I introduced an El Sistema program to low income kids who no longer have art and am supported by our city's Mayor's Gang Prevention Taskforce. Music and brain function is getting a great deal of attention. Nina Krauss, PhD, Northwestern University, directs their neuroscience lab and has a great deal of evidence. There are others on the East Coast doing similar work around music.

It's a very good proyect really. There are many voices in the world but they don't have any intermediate to listen their problems...

Beauty, art and creativity allow us to share the vision of a better world

i am precisely doing this and would love imput and or collaberation.

thanks, james ferrari 917 532 4747

The truth never belong to one group. if it was just right in a group, it must be in question.

I strongly agree about the concept, importance and role of arts in society. My M.A. Thesis (and published book
based on the Thesis) is titled, The Role of the State and the Politics of Culture: A Critical Analysis of the National Endowment for the Arts (University Press of


A truly powerful and inclusive and compelling statement.

That was a very powerful video. It does, however, highlight the limitations of “art and culture” as a programmatic lens for “open society” focused grantmaking. We can see from this web page that it does not appear to be an “issue” on par with “Education & Youth” or “Governance & Accountability” or any of the others in the drop-down menu above. “Freedom of Expression” is almost certainly a more powerful lens, and one worthy of consideration for funding on a level more equal to the other OSF issue areas. On a related note, “freedom of expression” fits more powerfully within the concept of “civic space” than “arts & culture” does within the frame of “civil society”…

This video is beautifully crafted and I love how nicely the case is being made for the need to support the arts. God bless all those who work for the Open Society Foundations.

Indeed, the world itself is inherently 'art', nothing could be interpreted or explained properly without the need for artistic interference. The Open Society is doing a great job in giving a voice to those, who otherwise would have been lost in the whelming crowd.


What is the difference between freedom of expression and freedom of speech. With expression I think we are protecting the right of publishers...

We need always to be open to one another in times of need and prosperity. That's why there is advocacy for OERs

that is inspirational and completelly true. But sir how could i get more opportunities to work with open society foundation.

I have the same difficult with my education/health/development and poverty erradication programs for refugees here in Central America. It is so difficult to quantify work that is at the individual level. Over the long term I know we have helped to make change but how to write the language of the funder when you are working with complex issues of personal suffering, processing and ultiamtely healing?

The Video clip is real moving the mind and had made me think on a number of issues which are happening globally, my computer had a problem with speakers but the pictorial gave me the massage very clearly on several issues presented. Keep it up.

I dont think that you need an evaluative research to bring the many micro evidences because to me they are evidence based and they are participatory researches/ action research, what more do you want!!! may be wider sharing as sometimes we say, Artists eyes see more than other eyes do, they need eye opening and that is exactly what you are doing. Keep it up.

Many thanks for this documentary. I too believe in the trans-formative power of arts because it embodies real freedom and touches the hearts, the eyes and ears of a diverse audience, including those of those who otherwise would not wish to come across such messages, images and calls that cry loud for social justice, exclusivity, democracy, human and minority rights. Keep up the work you are doing for a more open world.

I find this awesome and very interesting.
If humanity has known throughout its history of repeated crises and unrest periods, it is because it has failed so far to achieve fully and effectively the “Circle of enlightenment qualities and virtues”
Our visions as youths constitute an irreversible dream, an ideal solution to the ills that harm the society of our time but the sad point is that Young people are unaware of their potentials and vulnerability.There is need to reform human values and qualities.

Please support change in South Africa. Grossly corrupt with a government locked in by need to hang onto its own gravy train and basically hostile to democracy & inequality.

Beautiful and revealing.

Art is expression of human thoughts, views, hopes aspiration as well as despondency. In simple it is the expression of society. It can entertain, inform,inspire or educate. The political expression of the time and democracy can be captured by art. Hence support and promotion of art is in essence development of democracy and society.

Open Society funded the 9/11 Performance Project at the Gerald Lynch Theatre, John Jay College where my play "Another Life"--the only American play about the U.S. torture program and how it was used to lead us into war in Iraq, premiered. Surreal and poetic, the play went on to have 4 (small) productions. Without OSI, the play would not have been produced. Each performand was preceded or followed by talks by major human rights and anti-torture advocates.

Thank you. This was very moving. Art is a language that I use to communicate many ideas with my Kindergarten students. I believe that with the many tools and vocabularies of the arts, my students will be able to reach deeper inside of ideas, rather than just skim last them. An open society is what I work for and try to instill with my classes. It is strong and important work and I am grateful for the work your organization does. My heart always swells with emotion which motivates me to action when I receive your posts. Thank you.

Art is powerful! It often has the liberty to cross borders and brings the (un)imagined into reality. The documentary inspires and calls us to action....and we will certainly rise!

Thanks. Art opens the mind.

Thank you for that wonderful piece of documentary..I truly believe and is actively introducing Integrated cultural arts in all the advocacies am involved with whether in human rightswork and in ,democratic governance.ducatin work and womens struggles. I appreciate that you are supporting this field of work in culture and D Art. It is a very effective tool in changing peoples behavior attitudes and world outlook. Am asking your good office -the Open Society to continue supportigng said endeavors.Am on child rights participation in governance now and am hopeful if you could support our organization.. We woud be very glad to hear a word from your good office,the soonest.

Congratulations such an inspiration, the power of Arts with the most open language of expression. Arts for Peacebuilding, arts for justice and freedom, the arts bring all languages together.

i as a man by birth i am an artist.want to serve my country guide me how it will be possible.

the art and culture tells the origin of individuals and when its honored and celebrated,it reminds many around the globe about the strengths people have in their respective origin.However,celebrating culture and making loving display of all type, is a very special recognition to human existence which need to be enjoyed by peaceful co-existent of all kind. "my culture my origin"

Fabulous endeavours in Haiti,Kosovo etc.The communities Israel, West Bank Gaza would be another place to foster Open Society goals

At Art for Humanity we have been effective in creating Human Rights awareness through art and poetry, mobilising artists and poets worldwide to create work on various Human Rights issues and using the art and poetry to create Human Rights awareness in schools and communities...

I write sing and record protest songs - I sing at rallies and I sell CDs and encourage the buyer to copy for gifting ... I think it's good to do art for the moment. I also sang a song for my submission to an environmental review panel - Enbridge pipeline. All my songs are free to listen on my website and if someone wants to learn them to sing at a protest, that's cool with me. Tx for doing your open art.

What a fantastic initiative. I applaud you and only hope that I can find ways to contribute. There is so much to be done.

A moving and important video. I am further inspired to continue making Art but, with subtle change of direction into Social Reform and Justice issues. What else can we do to help?

Beautiful video that should be required viewing for every grant maker attempting to work at the intersection of art and social justice. Here in St Louis, MO we know that the arts became the weapon of choice during the Ferguson uprising for those whose voices needed to be heard. The Regional Arts Commission funded the movement with grants that brought people together.

the roles of art in our society is a great things ,art is my first love am deep in culture

Late to the party but hot to contribute...

@Stephen McCormick: I believe the foundation is including ART as 'Media and Information'. This is not uncommon.

I'm concerned that the universalist potential of the classical arts, powerful as they are, is being overtaken by calls for nativism and "authenticity." When I came of age in in the late-70s, there were pushes for PoC to play classical music and join orchestras. I did and became a successful pro. That only went so far as both blacks and whites have called my innovative work to broaden audiences "inauthentic" or "not quite convincing enough." The industry displays "mixed feelings" about opening up. Culture means we borrow from each other to create new trends. Inclusive arts means we will sacrifice for art to belong to everyone.


Je ne souscris pas à l'essentiel de ce qu'énonce votre vidéogramme et qui s'inspire de l'acception éliste de l'art telle qu'elle a pratiquement tout conquis aujourd'hui. C'est notamment la raison pour laquelle je rédige ce commentaire en français. Pourquoi l'anglais serait-il forcément le langage unique de la "culture internationale" ?

Si votre reportage me parait manquer 'essentiel c'est qu'il n'y ait pas besoin d'examiner ni de connaître son travail particulier pour reconnaître l'utilité de l'artiste. L'artiste c'est simplement une singularité humaine comme une autre mais que la société sélective autorise à cultiver cette singularité.

Le traitement de qui choisit cette voie est donc d'abord et avant tout symptomatique de la considération d'une société non pas pour quelques unes mais pour chacune des singularités qui la composent.

Le méta-problème auquel nous soyons confrontés aujourd'hui provient d'une construction du collectif autour du langage et en particulier de l'écrit qui incite à considérer la singularité non pas pour ce qu'elle est, à savoir la qualité essentielle universelle définissant l'être humain, mais comme une exception, souvent disruptive à l'égard des tendances normatives des constructions sociales.

Le rôle de l'artiste c'est donc très modestement d'essayer de ne jamais renoncer à cette singularité, afin de rester autant que possible un être humain comme un autre, dans l'acception même qui idéalement se devrait d'être universellement reconnue et respectée.

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