In many ways, it seems vital that art helps to house global diplomacy, because the practice of making and transferring cultural communication through design and craft has played a very large historic role in creating global networks and cultural exchange. Art is generous and can help us to communicate complex notions.
In March of 2015, artist Alexis Callender traveled to Kyrgyzstan for an Artist Exchange and in-depth research for a future commission for the new U.S Embassy in Bishkek. The research component of the trip allowed the artist to document the process and traditions of material crafts and object history; something that would have been difficult to access with internet research alone. The images and materials that the artist encountered on this exchange “makes me feel like I have a more intimate understanding of the culture as I will be creating this site specific commission. The opportunity to be working with the Artist Exchange Program has allowed me to be part of a larger global art context.”
Some of the sites and studios Callender visited during this trip included the local craft market Osh Bazaar, The Ala Archa National Park, as well as different design studios including Aidai Design Studio, Dilbar Fashion and the Tumar workshop and studio. Callender also met with the Director of the Aigine Cultural Research Center, Gulnara Aitbaeva to discuss the topics of Kyrgyz history, traditions, and sacred places in the epic poems of the Manas. In addition, the artist conducted lectures for students at the Art and Design College and a workshop at the Chuikov College of Art. Reflecting on her experiences in Kyrgyzstan the artist noted that “I am looking forward to applying the techniques in surface application that I experienced and learned about, to my own practice and to use these ideas as teaching tools… Ordering a custom made felting mat used in traditional Kyrgyz felting for my department at the University of Missouri for students research will be a direct outcome of this very interesting exchange.”