Art In Embassies Celebrates Serving Abroad …Through Their Eyes

Art In Embassies
(AIE) is a program of the U.S. Department’s of State and Defense that promotes cross-cultural dialogue and understanding around the world through the visual arts, sponsoring dynamic artist exchanges. For five decades the public-private partnership program has played a big role in U.S. diplomacy. This month, in commemoration of Veterans Day, the AIE program announced the 12 “Best in Show” photographs featured in AIE’s 50th anniversary “Serving Abroad…Through Their Eyes photography exhibition.

Last year on Veterans Day, military, civil service and Foreign Service personnel were invited to submit photographs illustrating their life while serving abroad. Over 3,200 images were submitted, 161 finalists were chosen then the 12 “Best in Show” were identified.

“These photographs depict themes of friendship, places, faces, loss or triumph, providing a window on the complexity, diversity and courageous work performed by America’s heroes throughout the world,” said the U.S. Department of State in a release.

Today, AIE engages 20,000 artists, museums, galleries, universities and private collectors in more than 200 venues in 189 countries. Over 58 permanent collections have been installed in State Department facilities throughout the world.

See all the finalists here

In the video below we see artist Tom Gosford talking about the installation of his work in the U.S. Tijuana consulate, and a look at the Art in Embassies exhibition in the consulate.

The AIE 50th anniversary celebration features U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton honoring five artists on November 30, presenting the first U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts for their outstanding commitment to the program.

[Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State]

Art On The Rhode: Take A Creative Vacation In Providence

New England is known for its captivating coastline and rural charm, but it is also a great retreat for artists and art lovers. Sure, big cities such as Boston have thriving art scenes, but there are several smaller-sized cities with artsy vibes throughout the region. One such place is Providence, Rhode Island, a city recently tagged “The Creative Capital” that has become a magnet for cultural action. Spend some time in Providence and you might agree the city could very well be the next Austin, Texas, or Portland, Oregon. Below are just a few of the ways you can immerse yourself in the arts while in the city.

Check Out A Gallery Show or Performance at AS220
Downtown Providence is home to AS220, a community arts center with multiple exhibitions spaces, a performance space and artist workshops spread throughout several buildings. The galleries are worth a peek, especially if you are interested in scoping out some up-and-coming talent. There is also an AS220-run bar and restaurant, Foo(d), that uses locally-sourced ingredients and has plenty of menu options for vegetarians and vegans. Adjacent to the restaurant, the organization runs a venue hosting live music most nights of the week. If you come early or a band isn’t scheduled, check out the locals-only jukebox in the restaurant for a true taste of Providence. In the summertime, AS220 puts on Foo Fest, a block party featuring music, performances, art installations and more – but year round anyone can check out great art in their public spaces or sign up for a workshop to create some art of their own.

Take a Peek Inside Nazo Lab
Crammed with sci-fi stage props, larger-than-life puppets and other bizarre creations, Nazo Lab is the workshop of a local performance art troop called Big Nazo. The lab has an “open door” policy, meaning passersby are welcome to pop in and check out what creatures the local visual artists and masked musicians, who call the lab home base, are working on. Past projects have include masks and body parts for Broadway shows and props for television commercials and Mardi Gras celebrations, while puppets made at Nazo Lab have been spotted on stage with the Flaming Lips, George Clinton and more.

Partake in a Workshop at the Steel Yard
If you’d like to pick up a new skill or hone a talent you already have, consider planning your trip around a weekend workshop at the Steel Yard. Once a contaminated industrial wasteland, the Steel Yard is now a fully functioning, community-based space focused on technical training in the industrial arts. Individuals, couples or even entire families can take classes that range from blacksmithing to jewelry making. No matter what you choose, it’s guaranteed you’ll always walk away with a unique reminder of your trip. Free public tours are also available at the site every Wednesday at noon.

Browse Art at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art
With more than 86,000 works of art that range from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces, the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design has a little something for everyone interested in the arts. Just a few of the famous names you’ll find hanging in the museum include Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Koons and Twombly. Don’t miss the enormous 12th-century Buddha, the largest historic Japanese sculpture in the United States. On Sundays, museum admission is pay-what-you-wish (normal admission is $10 for adults).

Watch WaterFire
What is WaterFire? Well, I guess it’s exactly what it sounds like. In 1994, artist Barnaby Evans began lighting bonfires that burn just above the surface of three rivers that converge in the middle of downtown providence on fire. Part performance art, part urban festival and part public art installation, the work forever transformed downtown Providence and has become known nationally and internationally. The event’s symbolism can be interpreted however you choose, but one thing is certain: with an average attendance of 40,000 people per night, everyone seems to love the spectacle. WaterFire can be seen on select Saturdays from May through October, plus some additional dates on special occasions.

Shop for Goods by Local Artists
With so many artists around, it’s natural that Providence would have a great collection of local shops, coffeehouses and restaurants. Take a stroll down Westminster Street and you’ll pass by several shops worth peeking into, including Craftland (pictured above) where you can purchase shirts, prints and jewelry by local artists. Across the street is Symposium Books, where you can check out zines made by locals (while also browsing through beautifully-bound art books, a great collection of comics and more). Near to Symposium you’ll also find Queen of Hearts, a locally owned fashion boutique where you can purchase pieces by the shop owner and designer, Karen Beebe.

Celebrate Locally Made Foods
You’ll probably be hungry after all that shopping, and what the heck – food is art, too. Take a break at Flan y Ajo (also on Westminster Street), a cute bohemian eatery with pictures of bullfighters on the walls and a pinball machine that serves up small bites in the form of tapas. As their website advertises, they only have four stools and do not take reservations, but the wait is worth it. If, instead, you’d like to talk a walk around the Rhode Island School of Art and Brown College campuses, consider first stopping at Duck and Bunny, a cozy “snuggery” with an unassuming pink facade. The white vinyl booths, lace window treatments and marble table tops will have you feeling like you stepped into Alice in Wonderland. Order afternoon tea and some finger sandwiches or go for dessert with a locally made cupcake or ice cream sundae. If the cafe sounds a little too ladylike, remember that the Duck and Bunny isn’t all soft – there’s also a beer and cigar menu. Ship Street Farmers Market (pictured at the top of the page) and other area markets also make for a great lunch option.

[All images by Libby Zay]

Instead Of Looking At A Map, Why Not Listen To One?

How many times when traveling have you looked a map and wondered what a certain area of a city was really like. I don’t mean where the nearest bakery was or how many square-feet a certain park held, but the actual ambiance of a place.

Listen Here, a product developed by University of Dundee student Nicola Hume, uses microphones and audio feed to help you get a feeling of what a certain section of a city feels like before you go. The goal is to get people away from tourist traps to experience the real culture. Listen Here uses a concept map, allowing travelers to use a stethoscope-like device to listen to what certain parts of a city sound like. Points of interest are decided by locals, who place microphones in their favorite areas, secured by bike locks.

“Using sound alone to represent environments creates a sense of mystery and encourages exploration,” Hume explains on the Listen Here website.

Of course, the product has a few flaws. The most major concern, as Natt Garun of Digital Trends points out, is the potential problem of eavesdropping. This could make Listen Here illegal in certain American states. Because of certain concerns, the potential launch of the product is still being sorted.

Is Listen Here something you would use on your travels?

An introduction to the food and dining etiquette of Tohoku, Japan

The Tohoku Region in Northeast Japan is comprised of six prefectures including Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. It is an area of beautiful mountainous landscape, lively entertainment and, most importantly, a delicious food culture. Although the region endures a harsh climate, it still manages to produce some extraordinary cuisine.

Before visiting the area, it is important to become familiar with the dining etiquette in Japan:

  • Meals are usually eaten at a low table on a tatami floor. Be sure to remove your shoes before entering the room and kneel down at the table.
  • Before eating, say “Itadakimasu” (I gratefully receive), and after finishing say “Gochiso sama Deshita” (Thank you for the meal).
  • Eating in Japan is a communal activity, and various dishes are usually shared among the group. Moreover, when drinking alcohol it is customary to serve each other instead of serving yourself, so keep your eyes peeled for empty glasses.
  • When eating noodles, slurping is considered polite, as is finishing every bit of food in your bowl.
  • On the other hand, burping, blowing your nose, bathroom talk, playing with chopsticks, pointing chopsticks or spearing food with chopsticks is considered offensive.
  • Don’t stick chopsticks into your food or pass food from your chopsticks to another person’s, as these are funeral traditions.
  • When you’re finished eating, lay your chopsticks down with the tips to the left.

Now that you know how to eat, you’re ready to see what you can eat. Check out the gallery below for a visual journey through Tohoku’s traditional cuisine.


These hotels are helping guests celebrate the end of the world with Mayan-inspired packages

The Mayan calendar’s 2012 end of the world prophecy isn’t all bad news. In fact, the Mayans believe people on Earth will experience a positive spiritual enlightenment and connection to the universe. Along with the possibility of a profound new awareness, travelers can also benefit from the Mayan predictions by taking advantage of the special hotel packages being offered in honor of the event throughout the year.

Hotel Maya, a Doubletree by Hilton
Long Beach, California

What better way to experience Maya 2012 than at a Mayan-themed hotel? The Hotel Maya is a waterfront property that sits on the harbor in downtown Long Beach. A mix of Latin American and Southern California style, the hotel uses vibrant Earth tones, an indoor-outdoor design, and lush tropical flora to give an exotic yet modern feel. In honor of the 2012 Mayan calendar, the hotel is offering a “Live Your Life to the Fullest” package, which includes waterfront accommodations for two, breakfast for two, a $50 resort credit per stay, and free parking and internet. The hotel is also running monthly giveaways, guest lectures, food and drink promotions, themed movies, and Mayan cultural events throughout the year. Furthermore, on December 21, 2012, the day the world is supposed to end, Hotel Maya will be hosting an “End of the World” party at their onsite restaurant, Fuego.

Package rates start at $169 per night, per room with a two-night minimum, and runs from now until December 21, 2012. Call 562-435-7676 or click here to book. Hotel Teatro
Denver, Colorado

Located in downtown Denver near the Convention Center and Denver Center for Performing Arts, Hotel Teatro is a historical property built in 1911 that combines “the grandeur of yesterday with the modern conveniences available today.” To ensure guests live their lives to the fullest before the end of the world, Hotel Teatro is featuring a “Live While You’re Alive” package until December 21, 2012. The lavish deal includes a night in Hotel Teatro’s Chancellor’s Suite, stocked with Dom Pérignon and caviar, private butler service, a six-course tasting menu and wine pairing for two in Restaurant Kevin Taylor, in-room massage for two, a one-hour private helicopter ride over Denver with private limo service to and from the airport, and a $25,000 Oster Jewelers Cherry Creek shopping spree with a personal shopper. Furthermore, if you’re still around next year, the property is offering a complimentary night in 2013 and a celebratory Dom Pérignon champagne toast.

Package rates start at $35,000. Call 303-228-1100 or click here to book.

Blancaneaux Lodge
Cayo District, Belize

The Blancaneaux Lodge is a secluded property located at the base of the Maya Mountains. Surrounded by waterfalls, turquoise ponds, and tropical jungle, the luxury hotel is a great place to relax and unwind in a natural setting. To commemorate the end of the Mayan calendar, Blancaneaux Lodge has launched five cave explorations to help guests learn about Belize and the Mayans by visiting the natural underworlds where they once dwelled. The excursions range from easy treks like the dry and well-lit Rio Frio Cave, to the more challenging Actun Tunichil Mucnal Cave, which is difficult to access and forces you to squeeze through tight spaces, climb over jagged rocks, and swim in 12 feet of water. Although difficult, you will be rewarded with Mayan artifacts, rock carvings, and the crystal maiden, “a victim of ritual sacrifice from the Late Classic Period.” Other cave explorations include: the Offering Cave, ‘Caves Branch’ Nohuch Che’en Reserve, and Barton Creek Cave.

Excursion prices vary depending on cave choice and group size. Click here for more information or click here to book.

Hacienda Petac
Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico

Hacienda Petac is a private estate and spa offering resort service without the crowds. Located in the Mayan countryside, guests will have access to all-inclusive meals, a spa, and a workout facility while also being immersed in lush vegetation and artifacts from the Mayas. To help guests experience the Mayan Yucatán even further, the hacienda is offering a complimentary “Mundo Maya” package for 2012. The packages includes seven nights of pampering from a staff of 23 (maximum 10 guests), Mayan-inspired meals, a personal driver and guide, a tour of the area’s backroads with a swim in a cenote or a stop at a local market, and three guided Maya-related excursions.

Price for rental is $357 per person, per night (5 person minimum) for seven nights. Package is also available for four nights minimum. Click here to book.

Condo Hotels Playa Del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Condo Hotels Playa Del Carmen isn’t just a hotel, but a group of four upscale properties located in the popular Riviera Maya. Renowned for their beautiful location and luxurious amenities, El Taj, Porto Playa, Maya Villa, and Villas Sacbe each include spas, health cafes, fitness centers, hot tubs, swimming pools, and beach access. As the brand has traditionally observed important Mayan holidays and celebrations by offering specials to guests, it is no surprise that on December 21, 2012, the hotels will be offering rooms at no charge. By offering visitors a free stay, they are inviting travelers to partake in the festivities, traditions, and ceremonies that will be taking place during this time at the hotels and all over town, making it a fun and enlightening trip.

Free room is available with a minimum of three nights stay. Click here to book.

Acanto Hotel
Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Acanto Hotel is a new boutique property featuring a tropical courtyard, Jacuzzi, pool, sundecks, lounge chairs, and everything you will need to relax and unwind in an exotic setting. To coincide with the Mayan calendar, the hotel is offering a “2012 Mayan Message” package, which includes five nights in a luxury two-bedroom suite, a One Day Pass Plus for two people to Zcaret Eco Park offering hiking trails and Mayan history, complimentary wine flights at the onsite wine bar (value $100), VIP beach club access, and airport transfer. The package also includes the chance to visit the site of the Mayan Time Capsule in the jungle of Quintana Roo to leave a message about the future.

Package rates start at $2,050 for five nights based on double occupancy. Click here to book.

JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
Cancun, Mexico

Located in the heart of Cancun’s hotel zone, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is a beachfront property with 448 spacious rooms, four world-class restaurants, and their Mayan Inspired Spa, which offers body wraps, mani-pedis, soothing massages, and more. From now until the last day of the Mayan calendar, the hotel will be offering an “Escape! Mayan Experience” package, which includes luxury accommodations, tour for two of Chichen Itza, two 80-minute Mayan-inspired spa treatments, daily $50 resort credit, a Mayan-themed welcome amenity, and free internet access.

Package rates start at $399 per night based on double occupancy. Call 800-228-9290 or click here to book.

CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort
Cancun, Mexico

A sister property of the above mentioned Marriott hotel, the CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort is located on the vibrant hotel strip and offers well-appointed rooms with views of the Caribbean or Nichupté Lagoon. Like the JW Marriott, CasaMagna is offering an “Escape! Mayan Experience” package through December 21, including the same luxury accommodations: a tour for two of Chichen Itza, two 80-minute Mayan-inspired spa treatments, daily $50 resort credit, a Mayan-themed welcome amenity, and free internet access.

Package rates start at $399 per night based on double occupancy. Call 800-228-9290 or click here to book.