Cuisine “a treasure,” culture “incredible”
16 January, 2014
Cuisine “a treasure,”  culture “incredible”
Interview with James Dewey, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Georgia

James Dewey is Cultural Affairs Officer at the Embassy of the United States of America. He is a young good-looking gentleman, married who has a baby girl, determined to change something for the better in terms of the bilateral cultural and educational ties. He fluently speaks Georgian. Let us wish him all the best in private and in professional life. Georgian Journal thanks
the U.S. Embassy and the Cultural Attache for this comprehensive interview and hopes that you will enjoy it too, like we did. We wish the U.S. Government the prosperous year and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the American people!
G.J: Factually and logically, the Embassy of the United States of America occupies the leading position in financing and granting different cultural events in Georgia. What are the current projects running under this foundation?
J: The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation is a program that started in 2001. It’s a program that’s all over the world, not just in Georgia. But in Georgia we’ve been very lucky because year after year we’ve received great proposals from people in the cultural sphere. We have received funding for a lot of different projects. But the most important project I should highlight is what we call a Large Grant through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation; this last year $600 thousand will go towards Gelati Monastery, making sure that we preserve and protect it for future generations [Gelati Monastery is located near Kutaisi.] Personally, I am particularly proud of that.  The grant is for the structural integrity and architectural rehabilitation of the monastery, and will continue through 2016.  Through the Ambassador’s Fund, we have also focused on other aspects of Georgian culture such as polyphonic songs, Georgian folk songs.  In past years, we’ve also focused on maintaining and preserving and restoring important landmarks in Georgia.
As Cultural Attache, there are so many things that we try to support and try to be involved in.  You brought up the Moon Museum – that’s a perfect example.  We had Jade Dellinger, an American curator, who came to Georgia for the John Cage celebration last year, fall in love with Georgia and say, “I’ve got to come back, I’ve got to do more.”  And he told us about the little chip that he had, the ceramic tile that was one of the originals that was produced, that went to the Moon. We brought together Georgian and American artists – I thought it was a great project.
I would also like to emphasize how important this year is for us in culture, both for Georgia and the United States because we are celebrating the 110th jubilee, the anniversary of George Balanchine’s birth.  The U.S. Embassy is supporting a number of different cultural programs this year around the theme of George Balanchine.  We helped to translate and publish a book about Balanchine by Elizabeth Kendall into Georgian. We will also have an American choreographer who will work with the State Ballet of Georgia to put on a Balanchine performance in May. So, there will be a lot of events around George Balanchine, his unique role as both a Georgian and an American, and an extraordinary artist.      
G.J: What are the other projects that you are anticipating? 
J: One of the things we are doing right now is working with a classical musical group called Trio Bravo. We sponsored them to do a series of concerts in the settlements where Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) live.  These concerts are open and free for everyone to come.  The first concert was this past Saturday, and the next one will be in Saguramo, near Mtskheta, which is scheduled for January 27.
As an Embassy, we are very concerned about the disabled and how we can improve their situation.  We are supporting programming this year that will highlight how the lives of the disabled can improve.  Specifically, we will be bringing a visually impaired jazz pianist who will be doing concerts but also giving workshops and talking about inclusivity in the arts.  We are hoping to bring over a disabled athlete as well, and talk about access and disability awareness and rights.  Over the holidays, we also supported “Unlimited Abilities,” a fundraising event for women with disabilities, through the Women’s Fund in Georgia.
G.J: You are also responsible for the educational branch. What are the main educational programs on the agenda for Georgian students who wish to study in the U.S. and what are the main criteria for them?
J: We have 9 American corners all over Georgia, and everyone can visit them whenever he/she wishes.  One American corner is in the Youth Palace, in downtown Tbilisi.  In addition to the American Corners, there is a bookmobile as well.  The bookmobile allows us to take an American Corner to different IDP settlements at different times of the year.  We also have the U.S. government sponsored programs for every level: high school programs, university programs, graduate, for professionals, for scholars  - for different age groups.  We have two big categories of programs: fully-funded programs like the Fulbright Program or the International Visitor Leadership Program, and partially-funded ones.  As an example of the latter, we have Education USA advising centers.  They are located in Tbilisi, Akhaltsikhe, Kutaisi, Telavi and Batumi.  From these centers, people can learn how to apply to an American university, how they can get scholarships, etc.  They can help you choose the best program and find resources.  Sometimes, people are very focused on the government-funded programs, which are great.  But we also encourage them to think about the programs that are funded by specific universities and centers in the United States.
Every year, in the fall, we have the Education USA university fair. We bring in representatives of lots of different U.S. universities, and they talk to interested Georgian students.
G.J: Now, let us talk more about the informal part. How did you celebrate Christmas and New Year’s? 
J: I am married and I have a little baby girl who was born just a few months ago.  She is really the center of our lives right now.  As part of our tradition, we sing a lot of Christmas carols.  We had some friends over to our house.  With the little one, Christmas was more joyful than ever.  For us it was really fun, as we had the first Christmas on December 25 and then New Year (31st of January), then, Christmas again [Orthodox January 7], and then the New Year again. [Georgians also celebrate a second New Year on January 14th].
G.J: What is your favorite pastime?
J: Languages, as I said. I have always loved meeting new people. I learned it before coming here, as I think that it shows the respect towards the country you go to live in. I adore Georgian food – I think it’s a national treasure. I have to say that I have been amazed by the richness of the artistic traditions. I am astonished by how strong the art community is here. I do not only mean the visual arts, though photography, painting, sculpture is world-class, but I am incredibly impressed by music, by dance.  One of my favorite groups is Gordela from Tbilisi State University. I have been amazed by the dance groups. I have been really amazed by the artistic strength in Georgia.
G.J: New Year’s wishes...
J: I wish you a very happy and very prosperous New Year. I wish the world would recognize more fully the incredible cultural depth and diversity in Georgia. Though Georgia is small in size, it is huge in tradition, in history.  But like Ilia Chavchavadze said, it is not enough to always look back but it is also good to look forward.  I am sure that the future for Georgian art and culture is really bright. Another wish of mine is that the educational system should go on developing. I recently met with the Minister and deputies and I saw that they are very interested in improving the system here. I think it is the key for the country’s future.
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