Art in Embassies Opening Speech by Ambassador Scott C. Miller – September 27, 2023

Thank you, to the very talented Mariia and Olha for that beautiful performance.  We are so happy you could be here tonight!

Excellencies, members of the Federal and Cantonal Governments, distinguished guests, and cherished friends thank you for joining us on this truly exceptional occasion to celebrate the opening of our Art in Embassies exhibition.

My dear friend Ambassador Taylor, her husband Kenneth and special guest of honor, Aliza Nisenbaum I am thrilled you are all here tonight.

Before we begin the program, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank those who made this evening possible.

To the talented individuals who created the pieces in this exhibition, your works are a testament to the resilience, creativity, and boundless spirit of refugee and immigrant artists who sought and found a home in the United States.

Thank you to the curators of this exhibit – our dear friend, Scott Bixby and also the Art in Embassies Team, which celebrates 60 years of promoting international understanding through the visual arts.

Lastly, to my fantastic Embassy team.  Thank you for working tirelessly to coordinate and bring this event to fruition.

President John F. Kennedy, whose administration established the Art in Embassies program, once said, “Art is the great democrat, calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color.”

In this spirit, it was very important to me and my husband, Tim, to pay tribute to the indomitable courage of immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking artists who have found personal and artistic freedom in the United States.  Their art speaks of resilience, determination, and an unwavering commitment to self-expression.

The story of America is a tapestry, woven with threads from every corner of the globe.  It is a story of diverse voices, dreams, and contributions which have enriched and invigorated the fabric of our nation.  Tonight, we honor the artists who remind us that the beauty of our country often comes from beyond its shores.

Mark Rothko, born Markus Rothkowitz in Latvia, came to the United States as a child, fleeing religious persecution.  He eventually became one of the most pioneering figures of the abstract expressionist movement, reminding us that freedom can lead to groundbreaking innovation.

Then there’s Christo, originally from Bulgaria.  Together with his wife Jeanne-Claude, herself from Morocco, created monumental environmental artworks, from the Reichstag in Berlin to The Gates in Central Park, inviting all of us to see the world around us from a new and unexpected perspective.

In her powerful series “Invisible Children,” Rania Matar, born in Lebanon and of Palestinian descent, turns her lens towards child refugees from across the Middle East, rendering visible the stories of those who are most often overlooked.  Her intimate portrayals offer viewers a chance to empathize, understand, and reflect on our shared responsibility towards each other — particularly the most vulnerable.

And of course, Aliza Nisenbaum, born in Mexico City, brings her own unique perspective to the fore, immersing herself with the immigrant communities of New York City to create vibrant portraits of individuals who are often pushed to the margins—undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, and essential workers, to name a few.

Every brushstroke in her paintings is imbued with intimacy and respect, challenging the viewer to recognize the inherent dignity and value of every individual.  Her commitment to spotlighting these stories, and the balance of art and ethics, underscores the indispensable contribution of immigrants to the fabric of America.

Each of these artists, like so many others in this exhibition and in our country’s history, did not merely bring their talents to the United States; they also brought their unique perspectives, their histories, and their rich backgrounds.  Through their art, they have added to the collective American story, shaping and enriching our understanding of what it means to be American.  As President Obama said, “What makes someone American isn’t just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles and faith in the idea that anyone – from anywhere – can write the next chapter of our story.”

We see similar stories every day in Liechtenstein and Switzerland, where more than 65,000 Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed in the last two years.  These arrivals are not just adding to the diversity of our nations, but bringing their skills, ideas, creativity, and potential.

In celebrating this exhibition, we are not just acknowledging the mastery of these artists; we are also celebrating the enduring spirit of all immigrants who have come to the United States, seeking safety, opportunity, and a chance to contribute to a nation that is constantly in the making.

I am humbled to appreciate and honor these pieces every day, and to share them with you all.

On behalf of my husband, myself, and the entire Embassy Team, thank you all for joining our celebration tonight.

It is our hope that as you explore this exhibition, you will see beyond the canvas and into the soul of our nation — a nation that is, and always will be, a land of immigrants and opportunity to forge the next chapter of our story and the never-ending work to become a more perfect union.