A New Take on Global Affairs

The Big Picture

Johns Hopkins SAIS is proud to announce the creation of The Big Picture: A Forum Dedicated to Exploring International Affairs Through Arts & Culture. 

The forum will sponsor conversations, exhibitions, musical performances, and other forms of cultural expression that push us to think more deeply about global issues from different perspectives.

The Big Picture will build a conversation on global issues between creative, policy, business, and academic communities, in the hope that better policy outcomes can be achieved when all stakeholders broaden their vantage points on global challenges.

From the very earliest war photographers of the Crimean war in the 1850s to the renowned Aei Weiwei’s refugee boat installation in Denmark this year, creative communities have been at the forefront of calls for change. The Big Picture proudly shares this vision and, housed in the school’s Foreign Policy Institute, it will serve as an incubator for new ideas and for finding creative solutions for improving the global human condition.

Details Matter

In the study and practice of international affairs, details matter. From deciding the seating arrangements of heads of state at the United Nations to pursuing peace deals with insurgents, knowing the minutiae of diplomacy, negotiation, and communication can be critical to the success of a policy outcome.

Successful policy – and navigating the details and politics around it – depends on getting “the big picture” right too: capturing and understanding the stories behind policy and their impact on the people they intend to serve. Arts and culture have always been a powerful platform in fulfilling this goal, especially when words are not enough.

What Does Success Look Like?

The forum will be successful if through our engagements we are able to bridge opposing viewpoints; seek out underrepresented or inaccessible perspectives on global issues; or simply show our audience a different way of understanding something.

But increasing awareness and dialogue will only get us halfway. We will endeavor to incorporate social change and community engagement components into our programming as the forum evolves over time. To have policy impact, we will seek out thought leaders and policymakers who can elevate our conversations among those with influence.

Arts and Culture in Diplomacy and Negotiation

The role of arts and culture in shaping policy is not a new idea. Governments around the world engage in cultural diplomacy efforts to build understanding and awareness of their peoples and history so that the tough work of policymaking can be done against a backdrop of mutual understanding, empathy, and respect.

The need for such a mission couldn’t be greater. We look forward to serving this purpose by creating opportunities for deeper thinking on international affairs that results in more effective policymaking and problem-solving.

Featured Image credit: Jason Hamacher, Lost Origin Productions

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