Leading Cultural Diplomacy with Meridian International Center

The UAE Embassy and Meridian International Center launched Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates.

Since its founding, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Embassy in Wasington, DC has worked hard to foster cultural understanding, people-to-people relations, and global engagement in the United States (US).

These traditional values are at the core of the UAE Embassy’s long-lasting relationship with the Meridian International Center, a not-for-profit organization that connects leaders from around the world to develop solutions to shared global challenges.

Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates

The UAE Embassy’s partnership with Meridian began in 2014, when they came together to launch a cultural diplomacy program known as Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates.

The Past Forward exhibition toured across the US for 18 months and showcased over 50 different artworks by 25 select Emirati artists. This joint initiative not only celebrated the UAE’s rapid development, but gave Americans the unique opportunity to learn more about the region’s history and heritage through visual art.

In support of the launch, Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba wrote in an official letter: “This exhibition represents an important ‘first’ for the United Arab Emirates. Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates is the first-ever major touring exhibition of Emirati art abroad. The debut of this exhibition in the United States underscores a shared appreciation for culture and the arts, and demonstrates the deep friendship between our two countries.”

Past Forward kicked off its national tour in Washington, DC and made its way to several major US cities including Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. The exhibition also provided US communities the opportunity to attend lectures and workshops conducted by its very own artists.

Advancing Cultural Exchange in the US

Following Past Forward, the UAE Embassy has continued to work closely with Meridian to facilitate opportunities for cultural exchange between the UAE and the US.

In lieu of the global coronavirus pandemic, they came together for a virtual roundtable discussion on how COVID-19 has impacted the built environment, particularly in architecture and architectural photography.

In 2019, they co-hosted a series of luncheon discussions exploring the UAE as a platform for emerging future lectures. The event featured a presentation by Dr. Noah Raford, the Chief of Global Affairs and Futurist in Chief at the Dubai Future Foundation and Museum of the Future, as well as a conversation with Ambassador Stuart Holliday, President and CEO of Meridian.

That same year, they arranged for a group of US photographers to embark on a week-long cultural and architectural tour through the Emirates. The program invited US delegation members to explore the region’s history of architecture and urban development in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain . It also gave members the opportunity to meet with leaders from some of the biggest cultural institutions in the UAE including the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum.

These are just a few examples of the many cultural programs organized on behalf of the UAE Embassy and the Meridian International Center. As they continue to work together in the future, they are committed to bringing Emiratis and Americans closer together than ever before.

Learn more about arts and culture in the UAE.