Washington, D.C. (April 7) – The Rebuilding a Russian-American Conversation (RARAC) program, a small grants competition funded by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and implemented by Cultural Vistas, was conceived to help strengthen ties between the United States and the Russian Federation to address common challenges. This year, the RARAC program funded 7 projects focused on increasing mutual understanding between Russians and Americans through virtual exchanges. Despite the rapid deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations in the past year, the goals of the program have not changed and are especially important now.
“Cultural Vistas creates connections between people in the United States and people in other countries.” Says Dan Ewert, Cultural Vistas’ Senior Vice President for Program Research & Development. “The RARAC project teams’ work shows that it is essential to keep communications open with citizens of all countries. Currently, the United States’ relationship with Russia is the most strained one we have, but there are many countries with which the United States has difficult relations. Maybe we can learn from some of the exercises the RARAC program has done about how to maintain connections with citizens of these countries in difficult times, and why it is important to do so.”
RARAC Grant Recipients
This year’s grant recipients spanned the United States, representing nearly every region of the country in seven different states. They partnered with organizations in three different Russian regions. These recipient organizations received up to $10,000 to implement projects that connected their local communities in the U.S. with their counterparts in Russia to start conversations to help build cross-cultural understanding.
The following projects completed projects as part of the RARAC small grant competition:
Collective Academy – Brooklyn, NY / Moscow: Is an online professional development program for artist collectives and members of artist-run initiatives, based in Russia. The program delves into the fundamental principles of sustainability in the arts building on the power of the artist community in its roots. In the post-pandemic world, decentralization of the curatorial, and market power opens new opportunities for artist initiatives. Collective Academy offered art groups from the U.S. and Russia the opportunity to share their experiences and collaborate on ideas development across borders.
Finding Common Ground – Iowa City, IA / St. Petersburg: Connected students from different cities in the United States and Russia in a series of themed webinars, discussions, and project work. The main goal was to provide participants with an opportunity to engage in discussions and collaborate to find points of similarities and differences between Russian and American culture. The materials from the project will be available in March 2023 here.
Fort Ross in Dialogue – Jenner, CA / Moscow: Organized a series of online video conferences available to the public with engagement from experts in cultural heritage preservation from both U.S. and Russia. The goal of the project is to learn how modern technology both improves and introduces challenges to cultural heritage work and to promote the new and creative ways that technology allows collaboration across borders.
Lake Stories – Duluth, MN / Petrozavodsk: Promoted youth diplomacy skills and international friendship through an educational initiative that brought together high school students from Petrozavodsk, Karelia, in Russia, and the Minnesota-based Gida program, a supplemental educational program for Ojibwe Native American teens, to co-produce a set of short films dealing with the spiritual significance of the Great Lakes regions of the U.S. and of Russia.
The Past and Future of Cultural Diplomacy – Boston, MA / Moscow: Produced two hourlong online video conversations featuring renowned U.S. and Russian performers, composers, producers, critics, and diplomats who have been active in the arts and cultural diplomacy between the two countries. The recorded interdisciplinary conversations explored the rich history of past achievements in cultural diplomacy and served as an opportunity to envision approaches for future collaboration. They will be made available to the public on YouTube, social media, and podcast platforms in February 2023.
USA-Russia Joint Livestreamed Choral Concerts – Seattle, WA / Moscow: Fostered musical collaboration and cultural exchange between the Yale Russian Chorus and musical organizations in Russia to strive for peace and international cooperation. They published recordings online and organized livestreamed virtual events attended by our online audience in Russia, the USA, and around the world. These collaborations will continue into 2023.
US-Russia Diplomacy: Conversation and Collaboration – Arlington, TX / St. Petersburg: Created opportunities for students to interact and develop personal ties and cultural knowledge by allowing Americans who study Russian at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and Russian students who study English at the online school “Webilang” collaborated in a series of virtual workshops. The students had group and one-on-one virtual meetings and accomplished tasks relating to education, urban planning, race/ethnicity, environment, socio-economic issues, etc. according to their career and academic interests using each other’s knowledge of the target culture.