CSB/SJU’s Executive Director of Fine Arts Programming Brian Jose traveled to Pakistan this month for an elite, 12-day cultural exchange program.
The program, known as the Center Stage delegation, is sponsored through the U.S. Department of State. It sent Jose and three other Americans to the Middle East to observe a number of artists with hopes of bringing them to the U.S.
Throughout their two weeks in Pakistan, Jose and the other program participants saw a variety of performance groups. They focused on a younger, more contemporary expression of Pakistan’s arts. Jose hopes to bring some of the groups to campus in 2014.
“There’s a dynamic performing arts scene in Pakistan, but the security situation makes it difficult to share art,” Jose said.
With political concerns about assembling thousands of people for a show, along with a governmental ban on YouTube, music circulation is a challenge in Pakistan.
The Center Stage delegation provides an avenue for some, however. Started in 2012, the program receives nominations of artists from select countries. This year, the delegation selected artists from Pakistan, Morocco and Vietnam. The artists are reviewed in the U.S. and chosen to perform for choice representatives like Jose.
Jose accredits his selection for the program to CSB/SJU’s unique residency program for its artists. When artists come to campus, they generally stay for a number of days speaking with classes, departments or organizations in the area in addition to their performance.
This hospitable experience has given CSB/SJU’s Fine Arts Programming a reputation in the industry of treating artists well.
“I was not expecting the phone call (of selection), but am absolutely honored to have gotten it,” Jose said.
In addition to the performances he saw in Pakistan, Jose commented that his favorite parts of the trip included talking with a number of college students at a variety of universities. Throughout the stay, Jose and the others met around 3,000 people.
“The environment blew me away,” he said.
People stopped them everywhere to simply say hello, chat and express their pride for their country as they see it, rather than the view the world holds of it.
“It was humbling,” Jose said. “There are a host of formalities to navigate, but they allow for a kindness you would never meet otherwise,” Jose said about his cultural experience.
Overall, Jose believes the experience will have a positive impact on CSB/SJU.
“St. Bens and St. John’s has a premium on international engagement. I felt I had the opportunity to live out the mission of CSB/SJU. It was a chance to represent us and engage with a country we rarely get to,” Jose said.
CSB sophomore and Fine Arts Programming student worker Katie Kuehn agrees with the benefits of Jose’s experience and the possibility of Pakistani artists coming to campus.
“It is really cool for our campus to be able to experience a culture so different from ours in central Minnesota,” Kuehn said. “It is exciting for me because I get to work with performers back stage and see how our different cultures interact.”
Between the talented artists and hospitable culture, Jose’s experience had a profound personal impact beyond his professional goals of the trip.
“It is hard to be amazed as you get older, but I was amazed. I had my eyes opened,” Jose said.