Clinton Global Summit Explores Art, Sax Lessons Easing Violence
As world and business leaders gather in New York today for the Clinton Global Initiative, one group of experts will ponder how painting classes or guitar lessons can help curb youth violence around the world.
“In a lot of the poorest countries we’re trying to help, the level of violence is a continuous undercurrent,” former U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a phone interview. “There’s an enormous amount of evidence that shows that giving people an opportunity for creative expression improves their ability to learn in school and increases their ability and desire to navigate life in a positive rather than a negative way.”
The summit’s “From Conflict to Creativity” meeting on Thursday expands the scope of the 7-year-old Global Initiative beyond its core focus on global health, climate change, gender- gap issues and improving infrastructure. Participants in the meeting, subtitled “Reducing Violence Through the Arts,” will discuss ways in which innovative arts instruction can reduce violence and rescue at-risk children.
The panelists include Irina Bokova, director-general of the Unesco, Gary Knell, president and chief executive of Sesame Workshop, and Alvaro Maldonado, founding director of the Washington-based Ballet Teatro Internacional.
When his staff pitched the idea of discussing art, Clinton said he approved it quickly. A standout tenor saxophone player in high school, Clinton said his interest in music as a youth had “a great deal to do with his success” as a political leader.
“It taught me discipline and teamwork on the one hand and the importance of creativity,” he said.
Clinton points to the THEA Foundation in his native Arkansas as an example of an arts program that proves the merits of including art instruction in the schools. Based in North Little Rock, the nonprofit advocacy group gives scholarships to high-school seniors and art supplies to public schools lacking financial resources.
“Every place they’ve done this program, you see a reduction in the dropout rate and an increase in the academic performance of the young people,” Clinton said. “Having strong arts instruction supports learning in a very substantial way.”
The Global Initiative matches businesses and philanthropists with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations to solve problems. Since 2005, CGI has secured more than 2,000 commitments between businesses and nonprofit programs. Boosting jobs and sustainability and empowering women and girls are among the main discussion topics on the agenda.
Leaders scheduled to attend the meeting at Manhattan’s Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers include U.S. President Barack Obama; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, chairman of the Yunus Centre; Harvard Professor Paul Farmer, co-founder of the Partners in Health nonprofit, which has provided health care in Haiti; the singer Sting; and Barclays Plc (BARC) Chief Executive Bob Diamond.
With more U.S. schools cutting back or not offering music instruction in the past decade, Clinton said corporate and foundation support will be needed to bolster art instruction.
“As the economy comes back, I think more and more school districts will be willing to fund or at least have joint funding with the foundation world.”
Clinton said that as his annual summit expands its focus to include art and gender-gap issues, he hopes it will be remembered years later as a “global network of givers” who worked together to provide services not supplied by the private sector.
“When I started this, I didn’t know if anyone would ever come,” he said. “Here we are inviting people to the joys of Manhattan when the United Nations (General Assembly) is in town, and they actually have to pay to go to a meeting in the city, and they can only come back if they promise to do something.”
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