May 18, 2023
Thank you for gathering this evening to celebrate our permanent collection of American and Sri Lankan art gracing the walls of the embassy.
As part of the Art in Embassies program, which brings modern and contemporary American and host country art to embassies, consulates and residences around the world, this collection reflects the American and Sri Lankan experiences.
Every day, when I walk into work, I look out the windows and I see the beautiful ocean and sky, gorgeously framed by the lines of this magnificent embassy chancery. This collection of art, as you see looking around you, is testimony to deep thinkers who create art that elicits emotion and reaction from people who choose to engage with the art. We may not agree, what is captivating, what is beautiful, but one thing for sure – it gets us talking. And I hope it gets us to listen as well.
Talking and listening, sharing, and exchanging ideas. It’s the core of my role as a diplomat and Ambassador. And, if you look around today, you’ll see many friends of the United States who look and listen to the world around them and, using art, “talk” about what they see through their art. We’re here today to celebrate that process of art making. It does not matter if the object is a dance, a painting, a novel, a musical piece, a play, a poem, street art, or performance art. It does not matter if it’s debuted on a stage in a glitzy theatre, performed in a club, or performed as street theater. Whether the art hangs in a museum, a private home, or a philanthropist’s collection.
What matters is the conversation and the process of the art and that we, as a society, create and support the foundation for these free expressions of will and of thought to emerge and be visible in the world around us.
Democracies and friends make space for freedom of expression. In our 75th year of official bilateral relations, I’m proud to recognize our conversation as two nations that share an affinity for freedom of expression.
To friends in attendance whose art is included in our permanent collection, thank you for your art and its voice in our conversation about Sri Lanka through your art. And for the artists whose works are not here as well – I salute all the artists tonight for your perseverance and passion during this challenging period in Sri Lanka. Thank you for your passion for the arts and for sharing that with the rest of the world. I am wearing an exquisite work of art myself, that of the talented Sonali Dharmawardena, here tonight! We are all, as individuals, works of art in each of our own ways – as we overcome obstacles and grow.
With that, I’m delighted to introduce the Chamber Music Society in Colombo who will share with us two pieces of Americana music. Lakshman, over to you.