Ambassador Julie J Chung’s Remarks at George Keyt Foundation

December 14, 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, and art enthusiasts,

I’m thrilled to be here at the George Keyt Foundation, a sanctuary that preserves and celebrates the extraordinary legacy of a visionary artist, George Keyt.  As the United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka, I am deeply moved to stand here, surrounded by the echoes of Keyt’s profound contributions to the world of art, a legacy that transcends borders and time.

In my initial week as Ambassador, I had the privilege of immersing myself in the captivating brushstrokes of George Keyt’s creations at Colombo’s Museum of contemporary Art.  His art, a reflection of the soul of Sri Lanka, left an indelible mark on my own appreciation for the universal language of artistic expression.

I want to thank the George Keyt Foundation for this invitation and for the important work it does.  The foundation, supported by so many of you as well as generous contributions from the business community, doesn’t just celebrate Keyt’s important legacy, but it brings the Sri Lankan public closer to the work of so many wonderful artists whose work might otherwise go unrecognized.

In my role as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of the arts in fostering diplomatic relations.  Our U.S. Embassy here in Colombo actively supports the arts in a multitude of ways.  Within our Embassy, there is a permanent collection of amazing works from both American and Sri Lankan artists, beautifully capturing the interconnection of our two cultures.  My own home features a curated exhibition from some of America’s finest contemporary artists, supported through the U.S. Government’s Art in Embassies program.  In just a few months, we will have the privilege of welcoming the renowned American artist Cindy Shih to Sri Lanka to conduct workshops for local artists, further enriching the cultural exchange between our nations.  We are also working with the Jayantha Premachandra Foundation on a special visit that will help to showcase the artist’s pieces in Sri Lanka – specific artwork that he intended to display in a gallery in the American state of Massachusetts prior to his passing.  My Public Affairs team also supports the arts in other forms – like film festivals, poetry workshops, and literary events that give voice to Sri Lankans to tell stories, uncover truths, and celebrate this beautiful island.

In commemorating George Keyt’s invaluable contributions, let us recognize the shared affinity for freedom of expression between our nations.  Democracies make space for freedom of will and thought, and through our celebration of art, we strengthen the foundation for these expressions to emerge and be visible in the world around us.

In a visit to the Faculty of Visual Arts graduation exhibition at the JDA Perera gallery a few months ago, I was privileged to witness the incredible talent and creativity of the next generation of Sri Lankan artists.  Works so powerful you could feel their angst, their dreams, their stories in your bones.  The United States Embassy is committed to nurturing this rich potential by providing opportunities for collaboration, exchange programs, and platforms to showcase the work of young artists.  As we invest in the future of these artists, we also invest in the cultural prosperity and mutual understanding between our nations.

In closing, I extend my gratitude to the George Keyt Foundation for their dedication to preserving the artistic heritage of Sri Lanka and lifting up new voices to freely express themselves.  Together, let us continue to champion the transformative power of art in fostering understanding, unity, and a shared appreciation for the beauty that lies in our diversity.

Thank you, and may the spirit of George Keyt continue to inspire us all.